“Youth” is the buzzword for M83. It’s seen in almost every review (seriously, CTRL+F a random write-up and you’ll see it), it’s mentioned in every interview and it’s a major thematic concern on almost every song. Hell, M83 even named its best album Saturdays=Youth. It was weird, then, to see the band live and see them ooze so much confidence. A better descriptive word for Anthony Gonzalez and co. live would be “experience.” The band is tight live, doing a accurate impersonation of how it sounds on record. Guitar solos hit every peak and valley as they should, the backup vocals soar behind Gonzalez’s yelp-shout voice, and the drums boom until they fill the room with percussive sound waves. It’s an exhilarating experience, and it’s one that the band seems to have crafted for a while, despite most songs being from their newest hit album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.
Speaking of Hurry Up, it sounds wonderful live. The intro to the album also began the set, sounding as immediately intense as it does there, even without the majestic vocals provided by Zola Jesus on the record. “Steve McQueen” still shines as the most active and anthemic track, with the ending of “Just Waiting!” being extended for maximum effect. That segued into the quiet ballad “Wait,” a needed respite from the dance/mosh atmosphere. It also helped showcase Gonzalez’s sneaky-good vocals; while not the strongest of singers, his style works perfectly with the pained lyrics of “Wait,” simultaneously bringing incisive emotion and pounding intensity. In other words, it’s a cry-while-you-dance song.
Oh, and then there was “Midnight City.” Easily the band’s most famous song (it’s in a Victoria’s Secret commercial, after all), it was reined in to serve as the penultimate pre-encore track. What a release it was, though. Every yell was perfectly executed by Gonzalez, the memorable synth line seemed even louder than on the record, if that’s possible, and the crowd seemed to rise to the occasion by upping the energy level to 11. Then came the sax solo. If anything is remembered from 2011’s music, I hope that it’s the reemergence of the sax solo. Hearing it live was as bizarre as you’d expect: 2000-plus people bopping up and down to a jazzy solo is not my idea of normal indie show-going, but it sure was awesome.
The tracks from the band’s previous albums were noticeable in their short supply: only six songs were from albums before Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Fan favorite “Kim and Jessie” was the best of these in the main set, but it was the encore double that really showed off why M83 is such a stunning band to see live. “Skin Of The Night” is the the band’s most accurate depiction of “dream pop,” and the wooing vocals at the climax of the song worked well with a backing vocals section consisting of the entire audience. It was then time for “Couleurs,” easily the best song of the night. Almost entirely instrumental, it transformed Webster Hall into a full-on French discotheque for nine minutes. It was the perfect ending for a set with very few missteps, and as the band walked off, no one really moved. Perhaps it was the exhaustion from dancing or perhaps they just wanted more; whatever the case, it’s safe to say that M83 did not disappoint.
Photos by Adela Loconte.