M83 at Lincoln Hall | Live review
In a culture so increasingly dominated by electronic music, M83 is both courageous and naive. Anthony Gonzalez’s music is terminally retro, both critically acclaimed and panned for its nostalgic obsession. With this year’s sprawling Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez has proven that his focus is less with preservation of the past, and almost entirely devoted to grandiose, occasionally profound, “epic” electronic music. Chalk it up to coincidence that such music requires a wealth of reverb and synthesized string sections—I don’t think he sounds dated on purpose. Like a lot of bands in a live setting, however, M83 was defined by its audience at last night's show.
The crowd in the VIP section was just a few years my senior, but a world apart: the wine-sipping, sweaterbound, potential last generation of true-blue yuppies literally swapped business cards across my face while scoffing at my local band shirt and lack of fiancée. I was repulsed, and irreparably parched—a VIP without cash.
That seemingly affluent little bunch appeared largely unconcerned with M83’s sweeping tunes, as one might expect. Anyone who came to dance, or with more than a passing interest in the band, was down on the dance floor. Like most Lincoln Hall shows, the age bracket was visibly wide, but in a visible spectrum of young to old stretching from the monitors to the upstairs bar.
But those VIPs were not imperceptive. After the first two chords of “Reunion,” a particularly '80s-inspired dance-rock jam, a foppish, blond yuppie to my right (remember Chet from the Real World?) belted the opening "Hey hey hey"s from the Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.” It seemed like an easy joke at first, potentially obnoxious, but Chet’s attempt at amusing his friends said more about M83 than I could in this review.
Anthony Gonzalez looks like Ryan Reynolds, dances like Michael Stipe, and is also French. This bizarre blend of character traits makes M83 weirdly approachable—easy on the eyes, musically on the opposite end of the spectrum from dissonant dubstep, and often euphoric without that familiar pre-death melting sensation. “Babe,” said a skinny, Gibbardish twentysomething to his Zooey. “Isn’t this twitpic of the light show fucking awesome?” Ravey blacklights onstage notwithstanding, this is Ecstasy music for people who are too old to take Ecstasy. In fact, it’s better.
While I missed the urge to dance during lovely, borderline snoozers like Hurry Up’s “Wait,” it was undeniably refreshing to hear and see a performance classifiable as “electronic music” delivered with such precision with Lincoln Hall’s excellent sound system. “Wait,” in particular, is a tune that works much better live, slowly drawing you in for a climax instead of tuning you out until the next track wakes you up. This stuff can sound really artificial on record, but elements like live drums—even with digital triggers—are brought to life with enough talent to take this band out of an '80s moratorium and into the territory of modern pop where it belongs. Unlike many electronic acts, M83 is a band, and a very fun band to watch.
But on its closing encore, an extended dance jam with no vocals, M83 proved it could hang with any of the club banger bros. Why don't Gonzalez & co. play that way all the time? Well, perhaps he's just smarter than that. Does the world need another Skrillex? Maybe we should just listen, while it’s still an option. Leave the pills and the dayglo at home—and just listen.