In the realm of French electronic music, few foreign artists hold as much clout in America as the group M83, headed by the innovative Anthony Gonzalez. The French musician has bounced around his collaborators for his projects with M83, but the ambient, wavy, dreamy sounds that he has been known to produce have never wavered since the formation of M83 at the turn of the century.
Gonzalez and crew out on a very personal show in Columbus Friday night; not many words were exchanged between the group and the audience, but the music made formidable connections with the crowd at EXPRESS LIVE!
The front man gladly expressed his gratitude toward the city a few times throughout the show, but the near 20-song set backed up the mutual respect that was built downtown Friday evening. Even though the group is in the midst of an exhaustive world tour — which started in early April two days before the release of its first studio LP in nearly five years, “Junk” — the energy and stage presence was alive all night long.
Despite touring for “Junk,” M83 frequently went into its back catalogue. The group performed more than five cuts off of the Grammy-nominated “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” which preceded “Junk” in 2011. Leading off with “Reunion,” M83 also kept the classic hits going with performances of “Steve McQueen,” “Intro” and hypnotic electro-banger “Midnight City.”
Although the crowd seemed infused with the rhythm of the band consistently throughout the night, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” cuts seemed to bring out the most eclectic dancing and nostalgic moments. Judging by the average concertgoer, the previously mentioned LP stood a good chance of being woven into the soundtracks of an audience member’s high school years.
If the ambient sounds did not evoke emotion from those in attendance, the aesthetic light show might have done the trick. Oftentimes the group looked as if they were trying out to be in one of those silhouette Apple commercial, but on acid.
The name M83 is derived from the barred spiral galaxy Messier 83, which is what the trance-inducing backgrounds that the band jammed out in front of throughout the night were reminiscent of. The lights at the concert were relaxingly cathartic, and it especially brought out the body frames of Gonzalez, guitarist Jordan Lawlor and collaborator and singer Mai Lan during epic song breakdowns during performances of “Go!” and “Laser Gun.”
The two aforementioned tracks happen to be two of the more upbeat tracks off of the group’s latest LP. At times when songs such as takes off of the band’s 2008 album “Saturdays = Youth” — “We Own The Sky” and “Couleurs” — may have been too tranquil, a seemingly strategically placed upbeat jam would even the score a couple tracks later.
Groups like M83 that have an extensive discography with chart-topping hits across the 2000s have the capability of diversifying the palette of its set list. Although “Junk” and “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” demanded the most attention Friday night, the near hour-long set — with a 15-plus-minute encore — tracks off of different projects held more meaning in the grand scheme of the show.
The band’s closer during its three-song encore, “Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun,” captured what Gonzalez and company have been about from the start: providing an escape through their soundscapes. As the soothing, off-distance, liquid sounds started to fade away, I found myself coming back down.
M83 can truly make you feel as if your head is in the clouds; it is that type of escapism that continues to keep the band relevant and what makes talented musicians gravitate to Gonzalez.
Who knows when M83 will return to Columbus again, but the group has surely been spreading hometown treatment all throughout the world in 2016. Pretty ironic when the first album they give to their fans in a few years is “Junk.”