M83 @ Birmingham HMV Institute – 21st January 2102

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Pinning down the sound of M83 (named after a spiral galaxy, Messier 83) is not an easy task. Mostly electronic, Anthony Gonzalez’ influences range from the epicness of Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine to the soundscapes of Sigur Ros and the Cocteau Twins. And yet, Gonzalez’ first musical hero, Jean Michel Jarre, is still very much apparent. It’s a sound which is very 2012 despite the 80s synth sound adding a sense of nostalgia. And tonight M83 have as good as sold out Birmingham’s HMV Institute on this chilly Saturday evening.

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Touring in support of sixth and most critically acclaimed album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, M83 take their audience on a 75 minute musical journey beginning with the aptly named Intro and ending with the thumping raveup of Couleurs. Some of the band’s mellower songs, which sound fantastic on record, lose something in a live environment and tonight it’s the more uplifting dance tunes, with waves of synths building to dramatic crescendos, that get the biggest response from the crowd.

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A live drummer does a fine job of adding some genuine bombast to the music and, when Gonzalez throws on a guitar and steps away from his keyboards, M83’s rock influences come to the fore. Somewhat unexpectedly, Gonzalez at one point leaps into the audience and surfs the crowd as the band hammer out an electronic jam from the stage. Whereas many of his contemporaries like to remain anonymous behind racks of synthesizers, he seems determined to add some spectacle to the performance and it’s something that helps set M83 apart in a live setting.

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The backdrop of shimmering stars and neon lightsticks suits the music well enough but I have to admit I was hoping for something a little more visually stimulating.

“Birmingham, I want to see you all try to dance” Gonzalez says before the anthemic Midnight City gives us the night’s true highlight. It’s a euphoric song and one that can be heard being sung long after the band has left the stage.

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The encore of Skin Of The Night and the aforementioned Couleurs brings a club vibe to proceedings and I overhear more than one person claim it’s “the best encore I’ve seen for a long time”. By 9:45 it’s all over and a satisfied crowd make their way into the cold Birmingham night to continue their Saturday night.

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Review & Photos – Steve Gerrard

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