In a way, M83 succeeding in a live setting seems downright impossible. Most often the group has only one member. Their sound hinges more on production than actual playing. The sonic output is so unbelievably huge that live translation seems a challenge, to say the least. Yet here they are, M83 on stage, in person and out to show why Saturdays equal youth.
With a sizable crowd in attendance, the French act’s clean-cut and enviably youthful Anthony Gonzalez takes the stage, making a beeline to a lit-up glass box of electronics affixed above a synthesizer. He begins
pressing down on its multitude of buttons, sending harsh,
digital sound waves over the crowd. Soon a trio of
backing players appears from the sidelines, dividing up behind another console of synths, a guitar and a
ridiculously large drum kit surrounded by six-foot plastic panels (presumably there for sound purposes). Then all four break into the song that kick-started the career of this electronically inclined shoegaze act some five years ago: “Run Into Flowers.”
It all makes for a wonderful start to a show, with the band following it up with a choice selection of rockers, ravers and chill-outs mainly from their latest effort, the ’80s/John Hughes-inspired Saturdays = Youth, and its 2005 predecessor, Before the Dawn Heals Us. And while there are few complaints about the song selection (which covered everything from “Graveyard Girl” to “Don’t Save Us From the Flames” to “Gone”), as expected, live many of the tracks lost, rather than gained, sonic oomph. The mix was definitely loud enough and the metal-styled drums hit with the same kick as on record, but the all the blaring keyboards, electronics and guitars often merged into one indistinguishable mess, losing many of the songs’ subtleties.
Also, Gonzalez’s arsenal of live antics—which included frequent use of the thumbs-up, double thumbs-up and the peace sign—left something to be desired, to put it politely. On the other hand, the band’s newest addition, vocalist/keyboard player Morgan Kibby, added a lot to the evening, with her Kate Bush-styled voice coming across beautifully and her energy seeming less awkward and better placed than Gonzalez’s. Yet by the show’s electro-fuelled close, few in the crowd seemed to mind the obvious flaws, giving M83 an enthusiastic response that, funnily enough, seemed to take the band a bit by surprise.
So did M83 succeed in a live setting? Let’s say, for the most part, yes, but there is definite room for