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M83 at Club Nokia: Concert Review

M83 Club Nokia - P 2012
Chris Godley

The Bottom Line

Neo-nostalgia that demands dancing.

Venue

Club Nokia
Los Angeles
(Friday, Jan. 13)

The critically lauded French band conclude a sold-out U.S. tour with a night of dreamy dancing and gratuitous sax.

M83 is a band not many would have ever pegged for the large font they boast on this year's Coachella lineup. Formed in 2000 by Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez, they've spent the better part of the last decade soldering structured, dreamy pop tracks from the frayed wires of ambient electronic beginnings.

This evolution seemed to culminate in last year's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. The two-disc epic landed atop countless best-of lists and sent its lead single, "Midnight City," into a heavily rotated Victoria's Secret commercial. It's the kind of fame that would make even the most latent hipster cringe. Nevertheless, M83 stands at the precipice of ubiquity as two shows at Los Angeles' Club Nokia proved when they sold out swiftly.

On the second night. Gonzalez conducted M83 like the Sorcerer's Apprentice in a tight t-shirt, furiously twisting the knobs of his soundboard, bending them to his will and meticulously curating every movement. It's the kind of control he appears happy to relinquish on stage, giving his metaphoric brooms freedom to show off -- most notably keyboardist and vocalist Morgan Kibby.

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From the start of the show, which kicked off with "Intro" from Hurry Up and throwback "Teen Angst," Kibby's playfulness balanced out her thoughtful maestro as a constant reminder that dancing was encouraged.

To listen to her on an album, Kibby's whispered vocals recall a Kids era Chloë Sevigny playing narrator. Live, her operatic voice rings with the kind of sequined glee you normally only find in Arcade Fire's Régine Chassagne. So when M83 tackled "Kim and Jessie" just three songs in, the 2,300-strong crowd was already swaying in unison, transfixed.

The set veered between Hurry Up and 2008's Saturdays = Youth -- "Sitting," "We Own The Sky" and "Claudia Lewis" inspiring the most visceral reactions -- before ultimately coming to  "Midnight City," the band's first quantifiable "hit" in the U.S.

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There's always a question of how M83 will translate new material to the stage. Some recordings, like Hurry Up standout "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire," proved too difficult to attempt, and the scale of "Midnight City" might easily suggest the same. Yet M83 delivered their current flagship tune to frenzied approval, satisfying both the dance hall anthem and melancholic folk song that seem to coexist in the track and delivering a walk-on saxophone solo that many acts might have left for vinyl or polycarbonate plastic.

Hearing it all come together live creates a kind of neo-nostalgia, summoning memories of unrealized John Hughes films we might have seen if the '80s had stretched into infinity. "It's way too big for us," Gonzalez said at the end of their set, looking up at the Nokia's infinite balcony. Humility never gets old, especially when delivered in a thick accent, but he made a fair point.

There's something about the shape of Nokia, if not its size, that isn't particularly conducive to a band like M83. Their sound should be free to ricochet off walls or spread across some vast expanse, not shoot upwards in a confusingly vertical venue where so much gets lost in the rafters.

Not that anyone paid that much notice. By the time they returned for an encore -- Saturdays' "Skin Of The Night" and an extended, sax-filled "Couleurs" -- the crowd's internal bop-o-meters were quivering at the end of explainable measurement. Nearly every able body ended the night dancing, hearts wondering why all weeks can't end with a saxophone.

Set List:

Intro
Teen Angst
Kim & Jessie
Reunion
Sitting
Year One, One UFO
We Own The Sky
Steve McQueen
Wait
This Bright Flash
Claudia Lewis
Midnight City
A Guitar And A Heart

Encore

Skin Of The Night
Couleurs

Chris Godley