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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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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.
Kim & Jessie
Year One, One UFO
We Own The Sky
This Bright Flash
A Guitar And A Heart
Skin Of The Night
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