Live Review: M83 @ The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver – April 27th, 2012

Electronic bands can be enigmas; their studio product is not always ideal to translate to the stage and the energy relies highly on the audience. Thus anticipation for M83 bordered on exuberance, but with a bit of caution as to not be disappointed.

It should be noted that M83 is not a typical electronic band. The solo project of Anthony Gonzalez has grown into in a cinematic, energetic experience flushed out with bold ideas and innovations. Their synth-driven sound goes beyond computers with heavily effected voices and an ear for harmonies. But does the music from the studio translate to the stage?

Opening act I Break Horses came on stage to an anxious crowd. Slated to come on at nine, the band came out about 20 minutes late. The first song slowly grew and the crowd was eased into the show. Though I Break Horses was not an incredible opening act, they went above and beyond what was expected. Songs were cathartic build ups; rather than settling for one moment of emotional explosion, they instead made every second part of that expression. There was no need for a climax as every song was a climax in itself.

By the time they left the stage, energy and youth had run through the crowd and anticipation for M83 had grown to its boiling point.

Lights dimmed. Hands came together. Every head swayed as the body eased than tensed. Some jerked as they were facing the opposite direction.

As the spotlights cascaded the stage, a creature came on stage. A mess of robes, a grotesque mask, and a cartoonish set of gloves composed this peculiar being as it briefly graced the stage only to disappear into a sea of blue. At this point, the opening notes of Intro from Hurry Up We’re Dreaming started in the background. Anthony Gonzalez came on stage notably excited to put forth a show. The crowd joined him with the opening lines and the initial connection was established, never to break. After going through Teen Angst and Graveyard Girl, Anthony returned to his latest album with Reunion.
The lights in themselves were immaculately done. Crossing beams projected various hues as strobes jutted motions and music filled every crevice the light could not. The backing of the stage beautifully highlighted the themes of space, dreams and youth as it looked not unlike the wistful night that one would drift off to sleep beneath.

With the show in full swing, a modified version of We Own the Sky brought a shudder of continued excitement to the non-wavered crowd.
A slight twist came with an inexplicable cover of Daft Punk’s Fall. At this point, the set was nearing an end and the band decided to bring what was left of their energy with Midnight City and Guitar and a Heart.

The encore was a fitting cap to the evening ending with the gorgeous instrumental Couleurs following Skin of the Night.

What baffles me most of the show was the intimacy and showmanship. Being a band heavy on synths they could have easily been stagnant figures focused on instrumentation, but instead worked around the stage engaging each other and the fans. The bassist always caught my attention with near manic prancing and youthful exuberance. Even the saxophonist who only appeared twice left a mark on the show.

M83 was not just better than expected, it was in a completely different realm. The experience did more than satiate my anticipation and, based on what I heard after the show through the ringing, the others enjoyed it even more. No matter how much of a fan someone is of M83, they owe it to themselves to see just how exciting and unifying an electronic concert can be when done right.

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