It's night. You're underground. A pair of lights glow deep in a tunnel, two pearls on a black napkin, a beady-eyed monster peering out of its cave, a cat's eyes watching from on top of the TV set as you get up for a glass of water at three in the morning.
But then the lights are gone and there's a train in front of you. The train is a white box with a blue line and faces in the windows. And now you are on the train, a part of the train; you are the train itself, sliding into another dark tunnel on your anxious and gasping way to the dot on the other side of the map which represents the city. Somewhere above your head, Paris is spinning plates. There are Vespas a-whirring, firework lights a-glowing, dinner people a-dining, drinking people a-wining.
But underneath Paris you are the train, and you can smell cologne and body odor joining forces – making friends instead of canceling one another out. But nevermind that. You are the train, moving towards the stop you were told to move towards. You are running in the tunnels, gasping, wheezing as the train, to the Parc de la Villette. When you asked what stop would take you to the Air concert, your friend said "Parc de la Villette."
Air. The French band who wrote the score to Sofia Coppola's "Virgin Suicides." The same French band whose album "Moon Safari" is like a glass of heaven when you're thirsty and tired of tap water. The same glass of heaven which was followed by "10,000 Hz Legend," an album you don't find quite as heavenly. The same album followed by another called "Talkie Walkie." The same "Talkie Walkie" French album just released containing ten fantastic tracks. The same ten fantastic tracks that include "Alone in Kyoto," from Coppola's "Lost in Translation." The same "Lost in Translation" you thought was wonderful and sad and beautiful. The same emotions of wonderful and sad and beautiful the movies don't usually give you. But they are the same emotions you hope to get in live, condensed for tonight at the Air concert. The Air concert at the Parc de la Villette.
And now you are the train at the station. You stop and open your doors and then you are a person again stepping onto the platform. You are a person going to the Air concert. You check your pocket for your ticket. Your ticket is still there. You see the exit. You get out to the Parc itself, the park your friend said was where Lewis Carroll meets Frank Lloyd Wright. You disagree. You decide to tell her it is "Brave New World" meets "The Stepford Wives." It is all of these things because of the red and blue lights on gigantic cubes of buildings, situated so as to give you the same perspective an ant must have of a Legos. There is a statue of a dragon. There is a three story tall silver ball called La Geode. It feels like you're tripping on soma with robots.
You ask directions. You walk. You find people. You see the ribbons of cigarette smoke in single file lines towards a building with "Le Zenith" lit up in red on its side in the shape of an airplane. You wait… and then you wait longer. You speak French badly. You have a conversation with a couple. The couple took the train from London to Paris that morning. They love Air; you love Air. You all bond in your love of Air; you bond in unfamiliarity with the French language.
Now you are a person inside Le Zenith. It is the smokiest concert you have ever seen. Through the cigarette clouds you can make out signs on either side of the building: "Defense de fumer" (No smoking). Someone, in French, asks if you have "the fire". You do. You hand him a lighter. You are the person with the fire.
And now you are the person confused; there is no one in front of the stage. Everyone is seated, talking, waiting for the last ten minutes to trickle away before crowding to get closer to the stage. This is the French way. But you are American, and after buying a beer from a vendor in front of the stage, (you first marvel that there are beer vendors in front of the stage) and you walk to the front row.
There is an opening band, fronted by a man named Sebastian, presumably, because that is what people yelled when he came out. His name is not on the ticket. Then he sings songs with heavy reverb and minimal instrumentation. Sebastian is the middle child of music. He is thus mostly overlooked. He is then completely forgotten.
And the roadies are doing their various roadie jobs onstage. And then there are cheers, loud, loud, loud cheers. Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunkel, the production wizards that make up Air, have walked onstage.
The two black-pinstriped musicians take their places behind keyboard and acoustic guitar as two other musicians join them – one on drums and the other on laptop/keyboard. The show begins. The first song is "Venus," the first track off "Talkie Walkie." The lights behind the band are choreographed in both color intensity and movement to accentuate the music. With each hard-hitting piano chord, the lights glow brighter and brighter. With each note your connection to the music gets deeper and deeper. It is the loudest concert you've ever felt. Your sternum vibrates with each bass note. For a moment you feel like you are the train again, back rushing through tunnel after tunnel, pumping as the throbbing heart of Paris.
Immediately following the amazing first song, Air says "Bonsoir" to the adoring crowd and serenade the screams with "Talisman" and "People in the City." The former from "Moon Safari," the latter from "10,000 Hz Legend." You fall in love. The concert is amazing, and it's only been three songs. You realize the whole trip to Paris would be worth it just for this concert. You realize seeing Air in concert is as good a reason as the Louvre or Shakespeare and Company for visiting Paris.
you are completely absorbed, and would be hard-pressed to come up with any concert or band you loved more. They continued through songs off the new album and their incredible first U.S. release, "Moon Safari." The set closer brings the volume up even higher for By the time the band moves into "Highschool Lover," the theme to "Virgin Suicides,""Kelly Watch the Stars," and the first encore goes another step beyond for "Sexy Boy." When the crowd refuses to be quiet, just as it refuses not to smoke or walk to the front of the stage too early, Air comes back for a second encore with a ten-minute version of "La Femme D'Argent," the first track off "Moon Safari," letting each musician take a solo to the definitive bass line. Your torso feels as though it will explode during the drum solo, but your head never stops bobbing, your heart never stops pulsating with joy.
And then it is done, and you return through the Alduous Huxley world of cube buildings and three-story silver globes to the metro, where you go back underground and turn back into a train, rushing back to Montparnasse in the south of Paris, where the whole journey began. How does one live without Air?