The O2, London

There’s a valid argument to be made in regards to Jean-Michel Jarre’s blipping celebrity status. Akin to the kitsch electronica and camp interpretations of the intergalactic future he has championed for over four decades, the composer’s notoriety sort of comes and goes like the seasonal nature of fashion.

The burrs and blurs of hardwired modulator dials and warbled theremin gestures coated by treacly orange laser beams currently boast a trendy nostalgia factor in contemporary electronics thanks to the resurgence of classic, ‘old-sounding’ synth builds. Luckily for Jarre, throwback analogue soundtracking is presently alive and well. But not only is it unacceptable to shrug Jarre’s continuous efforts off as dowdy retrogression but, as he demonstrates so diligently tonight, it’s wrong to suggest the artist has nothing left to contribute to a sound he helped establish in the 70s.

In fact, with the aid of habitually arresting visuals and a customary big-budget light show, Jarre utilises this O2 Arena performance to address some deeply-resonating postures on global current affairs. “I’ve always regarded the UK as my second home,” he begins having skipped down from his risen booth of keys and wires, “Brexit or no Brexit.” It’s been six years since the composer last toured our shores and in the face of the country’s most drastic change since his previous visit, Jarre remains unequivocally sincere and positive. Similarly, at midpoint through the performance, he once again addresses the crowd directly, commenting on the work with “a very special collaborator,” at which point the pseudo-industrial chugging of Exit begins. Mesh lighting rigs gradually draw together to form a screen, discarding Jarre’s equipment. A clip of Edward Snowden’s face appears as the whistleblower speaks directly to the arena on the naivety of neglecting our democratic rights to personal data privacy. “Saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like believing you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say,” Snowden laments while Jarre gently antes the rate of drum samples. It’s a genuinely powerful and unforeseen partnership.

From grandiose animations of automaton drones to Jarre’s direct and red-blooded synth swiping, the performance carries with it this degree of softly-politicised symbolism that augments the emotion of tracks both classic and unfamiliar. Yet for the most part, his unique draw remains in both his endearing, quietly confident demeanour and the opportunity to revisit cultural gravitas of his early works. Oxygène 2 and 4, two of his most popular compositions, still own an otherworldly allure as if Jarre and his two onstage multi-instrumentalists were sending out ‘welcome’ messages to alien life-forms.

Similar shticks, including a laser harp commandeered by touch, are present but only add to the sensational spectacle of it all. His encore, a preview of Oxygène 17 and the Armin Van Buuren assisted Stardust are showered in geometric polychrome, rainbow prisms, enough light to keep a small country out of darkness. It’s brilliantly overblown but compliments Jarre’s understated persona.

At the very foundation of all this cosmic pantomiming is a musician commonly regarded as a master of his craft yet commonly obscured from the public eye. But there’s an emotive and subliminally radicalising urgency in his performance tonight. And after 40 years of soundtracking the space age, Jean-Michel Jarre is still an artist that has a lot left to say without having to say that much at all.