We don’t usually like to brag, but if you were not at The Vogue Theatre on Friday night, you missed out.
French ambient electronic dream-pop phenomenon M83, along with Swedish shoegaze newbies I Break Horses, delivered what has to be one of the best shows of 2012 in Vancouver.
I Break Horses got things started in the right direction. The band is relatively new and only has one release (2011’s Hearts) but you would never know that upon first seeing them. I Break Horses were not only extremely talented and captivating, but incredibly humble and endearing. The lead singer’s true appreciation shone through as she often ended songs with a small bow and a sincere “Thank you” in her Swedish accent. Highlights of their set were “Winter Beats”, a soaring arpeggiated synth number, and “Load Your Eyes”. They ended their set in an interesting way; rather than end the song and leave as a whole, the band members each left one by one, often with their instrument looping, until only the drummer remained, and then he too finished, bowed, and left. Definitely looking forward to seeing I Break Horses again at Sasquatch.
No one seemed to mind that the night was running behind schedule, it only added to the anticipation for M83. The band hit the stage with a fantastic lighting set up, with several fluorescent-tube-like lights propped haphazardly around the band that would light up and change colours, several of them topped with a strobe light as well. Lead man Anthony Gonzalez kicked things off with the aptly fitting “Intro” from 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” before launching into “Teen Angst” from 2005’s Before The Dawn Heals Us. After awe-inspiring renditions of “Graveyard Girl” and “Reunion”, we were treated to a phenomenal performance of “Sitting” from the band’s 2001 debut self-titled album. The well known and favourite of many “We Own the Sky” followed shortly afterwards.
After a few more songs, mostly from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”, M83 finally played what many were waiting for; “Midnight City”. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the best song of the night. For what M83 was capable of doing live, it was a bit of step down. But the crowd enjoyed it nonetheless, with almost everyone singing along. M83 really had what I felt Justice lacked; the ability to actually play their songs live, without a backing track. The real raw talent of everyone on stage was apparent, especially Gonzales, as he had a massive set up of synthesizers and drum machines that he would constantly adjust and loop. And for “Midnight City”, the majority of the song was played from a backing track.
By this point, everyone in the room was well aware that they were witnessing true musical geniuses put on a fantastic show in one of the city’s most intimate venues. But M83 still had more to impress us with. After “Guitar & A Heart”, the band left the stage but quickly came back for an encore to roaring cheers. During “Skin of the Night” from 2008’s Saturdays=Youth, keyboardist and vocalist Morgan Kibby, who had been going all out for the entire night, showed us what a true vocalist is, hitting high notes beautifully without sounding strained. And before the goosebumps from her performance were gone, M83 closed with “Couleurs”. The building effect of the song was a great choice and got the entire crowd moving one last time before the band said goodnight. Overall, it’s hard to express in a written review just how phenomenal M83 were live. Their albums are already regarded as masterpieces, but their live show manages to surpass that with ease.