photos by @griffinshot - Tim Griffin, words by Andrew Marinaccio
M83 @ Stubb's - 5/18/2012
M83 wrapped up their tour with I Break Horses in Texas this past weekend, where they played Stubb's on Friday (5/18). That tour also stopped in NYC about a week earlier. Pictures from the Austin show are in this post, along with a review of the NYC show.
M83's 2011 LP, Hurry Up We're Dreaming, saw their sonic trajectory hit a fever pitch; an album that dominated and defined 2011 by its impossible grandeur and expansiveness as a work more so than any of its smaller details (though perhaps it did help that it featured the best song of the year). Their current tour solidifies that they've harnessed their titanic sound and its incalculable amount of whirling, synth filigree. When focused, M83 can make any stage, be it at a sprawling outdoor festival set or boxy urban theater, explode.
The band's sold-out Terminal 5 gig in NYC (5/10) was an impeccably tight exercise in M83's soaring synth-pop theatrics. After the alien from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming's album cover came out to creepily glare at the audience for a minute or so, the shimmering rise of "Intro" began, as group mastermind Anthony Gonzalez stood centered and still on stage, hands cupped over his face. Call it reflection, pre-show acclimation, or prayer, but it set the intense, almost cosmically sacred gravity of their entire set. Conviction was Gonzalez's face-- the entire band's faces. This was pop with a mission to ignite whatever it touched.
And the music matched M83's countenance with as much color and power as they could generate. Their set primarily balanced between Hurry Up We're Dreaming and Saturday=Youth with tracks from Before the Dawn Heals Us thrown in for good measure. "Intro" gave way to unrelenting turns on "Teen Angst" and "Graveyard Girl," all clarified and piercing renditions with minimal deviation from their album versions. But there was little need for change--though the breakdown wedged into "Reunion" was welcome--for the band's latter-day work was already loud and lush, only demanding a setting spatially generous enough to accommodate their booming sonic textures. And their live presence cultivated just that: Keyboardist Morgan Kibby's usually wispy hush ascended to towering trills and belts, vocally steering "We Own the Sky" and encore "Skin of the Night," the latter's chorus further lifted by a by a volley of electric arpeggios courtesy of Gonzalez' hulking panel of knobs and wires.
Basses were beaten on "Bright Flash," distressed guitars furiously scraped away at during the coda of "Wait," and synthesizers chronically prostrated before throughout the whole affair, each song a furious race to reach a radioactive crescendo probably responsible for many a neon-drenched contusion by the end of the show. Not that the crowd minded much, entranced by the perpetual energy generator running molten red (and nuclear eggplant, and atomic green, thanks to tonally appropriate lighting) on stage. And it was hard not to embrace it, especially once the looping, digitized vocal chirp of "Midnight City," rang. The ubiquitous, dance-compelling pop anthem sounds miraculously inexhaustible in spite of itself almost a year into its initial release. At least, that appeared to be the consensus: the crowd upped its sway into a stomping, flouncing dance mob as it bleated the lyrics along with the band. "City is my church!" remains a favored idiom to roar aloud amid the tune's automatic, fluorescent urgency. Triumphant sax-solo relish remained intact and reappeared on the final song of the encore, "Couleurs," here ratcheted to a club-ready inferno that peaked in Gonzalez howling a distortion- wracked "New York!", eventually culminating in the entire band taking a knee (or gasping for air on their backs) beneath a storm of metallic noise.
A brief set by Swedish electro-shoegazers I Break Horses--their first in New York--began the night. Their thunderous, yet measured synth cycles swaddled Maria Linden's airy, reverb-distanced vocals, presenting a curious historic parallel to the main attraction. It wasn't too long ago that Gonzalez was writing similarly smaller, but lofty-in-spirit pop constructions.
And the latest: M83 scheduled to appear at ACL 2012.
More pics from the Stubb's show below...
I Break Horses