Review: M83 at House of Blues, Orlando

click to enlarge Anthony Gonzalez, M83 - Mike Wilson
Mike Wilson
Anthony Gonzalez, M83

You can't help but wonder what an M83 show would sound like after listening to their 2011 opus, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. As the group's most ambitious album to date, this collection is a sonic landscape so completely its own, so decidedly thematic it's easy to understand why Anthony Gonzalez and company indulged themselves with two discs and nearly an hour-and-a-half of this stuff. [Text by Andrew, photos by Mike.]

It's a night album (if the title and leadoff single "Midnight City" didn't give it away), so the cavernous confines of Orlando's House of Blues felt more than apt as the four-piece French outfit took the stage just after 10 p.m. last Thursday led by a cloaked and masked figure representing something straight out of one of those nightmare scenes in Mullholland Drive. The alternating synthesizer tones of "Intro" from Dreaming emanated through the speakers before the band members arrived at their stations, Gonzalez's epic declarative shout of "Carry On" approaching then drowning in a sea of preexisting sound before we even really registered what happened.

Surely it's a fluke. This guy's voice should have carried through the room like an angel’s as it does through the foamy pair of decent headphones I wear when listening to him, but it simply didn't. M83 rifled through an assortment of other not-amazing-but-passable renditions of tracks from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming and beyond, like "Teen Angst," "Reunion," "Steve McQueen" and "Midnight City," before I realized the magic, the essence, the big-ness, so to speak, of their 2011 album is just something that can't be bottled and replicated live — at least not in this setting.

When a band like The National, for example, plays at the House of Blues, it works in their favor. They’re a rock band — guitars, drums, and little else in the way of Matt Behringer’s room-filling baritone, so the live product is very true to, if not better than, the recorded material. In contrast, M83 manages to churn out such a complexly dense, and layered sound on tape, but it just seems like there's no way some guy getting paid $12 an hour to manage an okay soundboard can truly replicate Dreaming's nuance and complexity.

But, alas, they still put on a passionate and pretty damn fun show. Backed by long, horizontal bulbs of shifting light, the foursome moved as silhouettes against the backdrop, making for one of the most cinematic and frankly, pretty-looking live shows in recent memory. Gonzalez traded off guitar, bass, and synth duties with brother Yann throughout the set and he's worth the price of admission alone; Yann rocks the fuck out under his big, bushy curls like a man fabulously possessed, and he easily made for one of the most entertaining aspects of the show.

So, maybe M83’s on-record ambitiousness has a little trouble translating to a live setting, or maybe it was just an off night with the soundboard. Either way, I'm sure M83 will be just fine for, really, as long as they choose to be.

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