Six albums in and French musician Anthony Gonzalez continues to astound. On record, M83 is as majestic and astounding as the spiral galaxy it is named after, and yet it would be easy for this mostly solo studio project to translate as dead as deep space on stage, as do so many other electronic acts. With M83, though, Gonzalez is committed to providing the most engaging live performance possible, which he did this past Sunday night at Neumos with two back-to-back sold-out shows.
Openers Active Child primed the packed house with a stunning performance that was part moody electronic dance music, part choral arrangement. Singer Pat Grossi traded between harp and keyboards, but it was his otherworldly voice, ranging from booming baritone to ethereal falsetto, that evoked yelps of delight and encouragement from the crowd. Though Grossi seems to get most of the credit within the press for the success of the LA project, Active Child is a tight trio onstage, as bassist Stratton Easter blends his vocals seamlessly with and adds a rich layered depth to Grossi’s own, while drummer Brennan Rhodes lays down some truly engaging beats. If you were expecting twee harp music, this wasn’t it!
Whereas Active Child turned Nuemos nightclub into a cathedral, M83 transformed the space into an interstellar dream. As the first ambient tones rang to signal the performance, the darkened stage revealed a sunglassed alien conductor, who with his large clawed hands simultaneously raised the volume, our spirits, and our expectations of what was going to be an electrifying show. Immediately, Gonzalez came out onstage, followed by singer and keyboardist Morgan Kibby, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lawlor, and drummer Loïc Maurin, and together they proceeded to create a universe of sound, more vast than you ever could image just the four of them making.
The new album opener, “Intro,” aptly started off the set, with Kibby replacing Zola Jesus’ vocals on the original, and most of the show came from the most recent M83 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and from 2008’s Saturdays=Youth. Current Victoria’s Secret theme and the new album’s first single “Midnight City” and the older favorite “Kim and Jessie” were instant crowd pleasers, but the entire set was well mixed with moodier shoegazers and hands-to-the-sky raves. If you get a chance to see them live — they’ll be in Chicago tonight, then Toronto, Boston and NYC — you absolutely must. Just check out these amazing photos from the early show by Dave Lichterman if you have any doubts: