M83 at the O2 Academy Brixton
Junk Tour - 23rd November 2016
I have been longing to see M83 live since becoming a huge fan of them, after listening to their latest release Junk, back in April; the French band have an electronic sound that sets them apart from most other artists within the genre. I was looking forward to experiencing their set at a festival when they were announced for Glastonbury, however the band were headlining the John Peel Stage at exactly the same time as Adele’s one off festival performance on the Pyramid Stage, so I was absolutely gutted to miss it. I then watched a recorded version of their live Glastonbury set and began to seriously regret not seeing them, but luckily I have good friends who bought me tickets for my birthday to see the band in Brixton. I had a rough idea of what to expect, thanks to the BBC’s footage from June, but the entire gig went beyond my expectations and has only increased my pining to see the band again.
The support band Rendez-Vous were already finishing their set when we arrived, so we didn’t really catch much of them; although from what we did hear they seemed like a different but relevant support act. After we’d purchased our drinks - £6 for a double spirit with 'a dash of mixer', not bad for a London venue – we headed in ready to watch the performance. M83 got the crowd involved straight away and immediately sounded great live, they are a band of talented musicians who seem to care more about music and performance than celebrity status. Throughout the set you could appreciate the quality of the musicians as they were bang on during every song, with an exceptionally good drummer in Loïc Maurin. However, I cannot emphasise how much the lighting design and technical elements made this such a unique and standout performance. The ethereal and dreamy electronic synths of M83’s back catalogue work perfectly with futuristic, space-like, and colourful light displays. The solid performances of the band themselves, led by founder Anthony Gonzalez who is on both lead vocals and keyboard as well as being the writer, were elevated by these meticulously crafted lighting spectacles; every song had a distinctive display of imaginative illumination. The lighting designer, Sarah Landau, has been working on the Junk tour throughout 2016 and has collaborated with the band to form a unique spectrum of lighting displays, utilising all of the equipment to its full potential – with some cool lightsaber-looking bars surrounding the band on stage as well.
Of course, the lighting was just the tip of the iceberg, the music was even better live than when I first heard it on vinyl. Their electronic style, with inspiration drawn from 80s television theme tunes for Junk, sounded progressive and innovative. One of the things I loved about seeing M83 was their ability to be captivating and entertaining with both small and large instrumental parts as well as soft or loud vocals from female singer and keyboardist Kaela Sinclair. No matter what tempo or style the music was, all of the songs kept my ears open and eyes fixated on the stage. The glamourous Mai Lan, who features prominently as a guest vocalist on Junk, came on stage to perform the tracks she was involved in, including my personal favourite ‘Bibi the Dog’. The band were able to please fans both old and new by playing the majority of their latest album and balancing this with their older repertoire, obviously they played their biggest hit ‘Midnight City’ which saw the largest crowd reaction thanks to an epic and naughty solo from saxophonist Joe Berry.
M83 also played some slightly obscure songs that only hard-core fans probably knew such as ‘Oblivion’, this is a song created for the movie Oblivion starring Tom Cruise which also saw the band step into film score territory for the entire soundtrack. A highlight was singing along to ‘Go!’ with the whole crowd counting down from eight, with Mai Lan, for a huge build-up to the final section of the song where guitarist Jordan Lawlor recreated the legendary Steve Vai’s riff from the album, it took the whole song to another level with a live atmosphere and an insane guitarist. This was definitely up there for me as one of the best gigs I have been to and I am intrigued to see where the band go next, either way I will be buying a ticket for the next tour. M83 were so good in every aspect of performance and production that anyone would be foolish to miss a chance to see them live.