M83, Brixton Academy, London
The word “epic” doesn't pack as much punch as it used to, what with everything being termed an epic fail or an epic win… which is possibly why M83's Anthony Gonzalez described their last record as “very, very, very epic”.
Called Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, it was a double a album - pretty serious in the days of downloads and shuffle. Live, his blend of synth pop and space rock aims sky high: you could even add a few more “very”s to that description.
Gonzalez begins the gig wearing a weird goblin-like mask, and a pair of gloves that shoot green lazers out of the fingers, to a soundtrack of suitably whizzy space noises. His band join for opener 'Intro', whereupon trouser-leg trembling bass and a committed pounding of drums further make clear their intent; the backdrop bursts into twinkling lights as synths build and build till M83's sound goes galaxy-wide (apt, given they're named after a spiral galaxy 15million light-years away).
The band attack all this with energy – keyboardist/vocalist Morgan Kibby and bassist Jordan Lawlor, who won a YouTube audition to join the tour, have also perfected the art of skipping up and down while hitting a drum pad and headbanging (both have impressively lustrous locks). Gonzalez, mask- discarded, bobs and nods over keys and knobs. Cymbals crash, and vocals strain. Lazers sweep the cavernous venue, multicoloured lights carve it up.
During some tracks, this is all undeniably uplifting: on 'Reunion', with it's big brassy Eighties guitar chords, they manage to make just “uh-oh”ing into a mighty chorus; 'Steve McQueen' shimmers brightly as Gonzalez fist-pumps the air; 'Couleurs', with a more housey melody, provides a fun dance party conclusion. On 'We Own the Sky' Kibby, resplendent is a caped dress that ripples as she plays, repeatedly coos “It's coming, it's coming now” - although the line sounds like “coming up”, which probably would be the most effective way to enjoy the set...
'Midnight City', the biggest hit from Hurry Up, is predictably brilliant, with its ear-worm of a yelping synth hook, a clap-along-able rhythm and an absolutely scene-stealing saxophone solo. The crowd ignites.
But M83 do follow a formula, with the same building structure for each track – add more drum, more electronic cowbell, add some thrashing guitar, more bass, more bombast, more UFO sounds... at times it can seem less epic, more formulaic.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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