An electronic extravaganza -- Celebrating the wind

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The weather was always going to play a lead role at Jean Michel Jarre's "Aero" concert -- and so it did. On the day, the wind was upstaged by monsoon-like rain which threatened to turn an ambitious idea into a grand catastrophe. Such was the magic of the sight-and-sound event, however, that most of the 40,000 people who trekked to the centre of a wind farm in northern Denmark to experience one of the world famous French musician's dramatic happenings chose to forgive the weather gods.

"It was a fantastic thing to feel the positive energy from the crowd who, despite the rain and the mud, enjoyed the show," is how Peter Sand from the event's organiser, Denmark's muscular dystrophy charity, expressed it. For two hours, the dead of a quiet country night was blitzed alive by shooting laser-beams, glaring spotlights and synchronised pyrotechnics, with the audience transported into an unearthly world of extraordinary electronic sound and light, made unique by the majestically turning floodlit wind turbines, which stood sentinel in a tight ring around the entire concert area.

Text in both English and Danish, mixed among weird computer graphics, rolled continually over the huge screen behind Jarre, aiming to link images of the wind borne environment with both the central theme of the show and its 15 turbines. "The wind carries birds, pollen, but also smoke and pollution. The wind brings us in contact with all the worst and all the best. The choice is ours," said Jarre.

He had rearranged a selection of his greatest hits for the occasion. They included a specially mixed track whose echo of the gentle swoosh, swoosh of a modern wind turbine was eerily precise. That fine detail was not lost on the many hundreds of wind turbine owners present -- the age of which not only revealed most of them to be among Denmark's wind energy pioneers, but which probably also lifted the average age of the audience to not far behind Jarre's 54 years.

Danish turbine manufacturer NEG Micon, whose turbines formed the backdrop to the concert, was one of the event's main sponsors, along with the owner of the wind plant, utility Elsam, and the local city of Aalborg. NEG Micon has been a driving force behind Jarre's idea of a concert in a wind farm since early last year. The concert was an "exceptional opportunity to communicate the message of sustainable development through clean wind power to an international audience in an untraditional and more emotional way," says NEG Micon. "With Aero, we will carry this message by the wind, cross borders and open people's minds irrespective of age, education, race, political and religious persuasion and encourage them to take responsibility."

They are grand aims to live up to. With an hour of highlights on Danish TV and an entertainment channel transmitting the whole show a few days later, NEG Micon won an impressive amount of air time. The level of advertising value for wind power of a sound broadcast is doubtful, but the concert was also sent out live on European radio and on the internet.

Unimpressed press

The Danish press were not over enthusiastic in their reporting, though this was mainly a reflection of the appalling weather and the near-impossible logistics of getting 40,000 people in and out of an area designed for no more than the occasional wind turbine service vehicle. Indeed, the organisers' promise of a "giant multi media city" bore little resemblance on the night to the sodden lines of marquees, walkways of ankle-deep mud, drenched audience and hundreds of stranded cars. While the Danish meteorological institute had forecast a maximum four millimetres of rain, 22 millimetres hit the venue within eight hours -- in a period which had not seen rain for weeks and was to remain dry for the following two weeks.

The event cost DKK 20 million according to the organisers. Sales of 40,000 tickets would have brought in a little more than half that amount. The 66,000 square metre concert area housed a 22 metre high stage, a sound system of 100,000 watts, 1.7 million watts of lighting, five tonnes of computer controlled fireworks, and was visited by guests from 25 countries, including America, Mexico and Russia. Among others on stage with Jean Michel Jarre were the drumming twosome Safri Duo, described as "Denmark's biggest international music success today," and the Aalborg symphony orchestra.

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