Always making an effort to stop by the Big Apple and envelop New Yorkers in its spacey sounds, M83 played its second NY show Wednesday night at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom on its US tour. Being the last NY show for M83 for awhile, the band put a little extra effort into crafting their visual and auditory spectacles this time.
Philadelphia neo-psychedelic pop act Sun Airway opened the show. Having released its second album Soft Fall on Tuesday, vocalist/songwriter John Barthmus’s voice gave away his excitement despite his permanent nonchalant façade. Given the recent release, Sun Airway’s set consisted mostly of songs off the new record, such as the fast-paced “Black Noise” and the melodic cacophony “Wild Palms.” Of course, no Sun Airway show would be complete without entertaining the audience with Nocturne Of Exploded Chrystal Chandelier’s metallic and bouncy “Oh, Naoko.”
While many of the songs sound “soft” on the albums, Sun Airway deafened the audience with its psychedelic melodies while Barthmus bounced around the stage like an Upper East Side toddler in a Dylan’s Candy Bar. Although the audience remained static throughout the show (aside from the occasional quirky headbobs) with its eyes fixated on the collapsing light-and-smoke machine effects, the crowd responded excitedly to the band with plenty of claps and ironic wolf whistles. It’s safe to assume that the lack of wild motion to Sun Airway’s music was a result of the crowd conserving its energy, hoping to cut loose for M83.
As the Hammerstein’s lights dimmed post-intermission, waves of cheers emitted from approximately all 3,900 fans as M83’s alien emerged from under the stage to flash the neon green lights across the venue with its finger gloves while stars appeared behind its back on the stage wall. When the alien made its leave, the band came out, greeted by glass-breaking pitched screams. The band’s mesmerizing, ritualistic synth melody to “Intro” gave a green light for the concert. The crowd mimicked sang, “Carry on, carry on,” alongside vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Anthony Gonzalez while the stage exploded with various light patterns and strobes.
During “Teen Angst,” the crowd cheered ecstatically, but remained mostly still. While there was some breathing space originally during Sun Airway, M83 soon became an unintentional, awkward meet-and-greet with your neighbors. The band followed with “Reunion,” and as if someone had flicked a switch, the vibe immediately shifted. Most of the crowd finally said to hell with their socially conscious selves, dancing ungracefully, jumping around wherever possible, or just letting go to do whatever their brain’s primal concert instincts commanded them to do. People let loose throat-destroying cheers and waved their noodle-like arms in bliss.
As with ever M83 shows, the visuals helped make the show the awesome experience that it was. During “Wait,” the venue was lit solely by the stage’s stars, creating a solemn and intimate atmosphere that suited Gonzalez’s crooning voice and soft acoustic strumming. As the song dissolved, the room was filled with an explosion of flashing lights and the opening notes of “Graveyard Girl.” With a faster tempo, M83 rocked out, Gonzalez and guitarist Jordan Lawlor, jumping around the stage while swinging their instruments. Near the end of the set, the iconic “wah ooh ooh ah” emitted through the sound system, immediately receiving a wave of cheers from the audience.
After finishing their set, the band hurried back on stage for the encore to wild screams of, “Play for the rest of the night!” and, “I fucking love you guys!” Beginning with the slow “Skin Of The Night,” the band followed it with the ambient “Kim & Jessie.” Before closing the set, Lawlor stepped out for a second, and remerged wearing a flowing black cape. Climbing to the top of the drumset, he leaped as the band began to play their last song of the night, “Couleurs.” The floor erupted into a massive dance party, everyone draped in bright red and blue lights while throwing their bodies all around. As Lawlor and Gonzalez collapsed from exhaustion, the audience erupted in a lengthy roar of applause, letting the band know that after a year of consistent shows, this was the best way to say goodbye for now.