Sunday, Nov. 13th
I think the question on everyone's mind going into>"/>
Sunday, Nov. 13th
I think the question on everyone's mind going into the M83 show last night was: would there be live sax? Would the French band have hired a muscular saxophone man to belt out the perfectly cheesy climax of Hurry Up, We're Dreaming's outstanding lead single "Midnight City"? Short answer: no. The band played as a four-piece, leader Anthony Gonzalez flanked by a woman on keys and a guy on bass/guitar/etc and backed up by a drummer that really should have been up on a riser so the audience could've better seen his cymbal crashing runs. What Gonzalez brought instead of a sax was a large, square, wood-paneled modular synth propped up and set at angle, out of which he added to the climax of "Midnight City"--and to other songs--some filter-tweaked synth arpeggios. But, yeah, no sax.
Other than that minor omission, though, M83 delivered an impeccable, dazzling show at the earlier of two sold-out performances at Neumos.
The show started with a lone figure dressed in the monster mask from the Where the Wild Things Are echoing Hurry Up, We're Dreaming album cover taking the stage and then slowly raising their arms towards the audience as one long synth swelled up and broke into a flash of light. The band then came out and played in front of a starlit black backdrop, beneath a disco ball that lit up from the first song, flanked by two diagonal LED screens flashing patterns like a pair of Tenori-Ons and surrounded by vertical fluorescent tubes, everything flashing in multi-color. Gonzalez led the band, switching between that synthesizer box, bass, guitar, and vocals, with much assistance from the female keyboardist. He didn't' say much between songs, although at one point he addressed the few people perched up in Neumos' informal VIP balcony above the north showroom bar, by the monitor booth: "I wanna know what the situation is with these four guys--did you pay $500? Congratulations."
If their banter wasn't super expressive, their performances were. The keyboardist bobbed her head so hard rocking out to one slow jam that the bun her hair was done up in was bobbing all over the place (by the encore, she'd let it down and was shaking it out). Gonzalez for his part spent at least one song down on his knees at her feet, shredding on his guitar; I was too far back to see if he ever got a leg up on the monitors, but that was a favorite move of his when the band played their awesome sundown-hour Sasquatch! set a couple years back.
They played about half songs from the new album along with highlights of previous album Saturdays = Youth like "Kim & Jessie," "We Own the Sky" and, closing the encore, a massive rave-up version of "Couleurs." (M83's progression from blippy electro act to make believe film scoring synth rock has been a slow, steady one, but Youth was definitely a turning point into pure, '80s-inflected pop songwriting, and taken with Dreaming the two albums seem very much of a piece.) Every sound was super-polished and pristine, every crescendo epic, all in service of sentiments sincere and romantic and wide-eyed to the point of naiveté. This is why we love M83: they do Michel Gondry emotions blown up to the level of Michael Bay effects. It's a combination that could easily go wrong, but with M83, it's brilliant.
(Wondered about sticking around for the later show, if they'd do anything different, but everything about their set felt so pre-planned--including what must have been some pre-programmed backing synth parts and arpeggios--that I wouldn't be surprised if they just blew through an identically tight set every single show this tour.)