M83 – Terminal 5 – May 10, 2012
To some, M83 has always had an uncanny resemblance to the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club. This has nothing to do with the aesthetic reality that the band plays music with influences from the enormous synthesizers that so dominated mid-1980s pop music. Frontman Anthony Gonzalez possesses a knack for distilling human experience down to one frozen moment: a fist raised against a cloudy sky, a human story of difference and commonality, to say everything all at once, a frozen slice of self-actualization. Gonzalez’s gift for this type of tableau universality emerged immediately, taking the stage in full costume of the band’s creepy cover art from 2011 double LP Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. It was doubtful this thing, somewhere between Donnie Darko and Maurice Sendak, was Gonzalez himself (he took the stage far too quickly after the bit of theater concluded) as the character, creepy and triumphant, slowly raised his arms in a crosshatch between invocation and professional wrestling introductory pageant.
The creature departed and the band took the stage as the opening notes of “Intro” leaked from the speakers. It was simple: Bring your cover art onstage in full dress, play the first song from your most recent record—form meets function. Now everybody freeze. Some in the crowd turned to their phones starting a brief but erroneous Twitter rumor that Zola Jesus, who sings on the album version of “Intro,” was in the house and singing the hook. M83, unwitting to this secondary narrative, ran through the enormous “Teen Angst” and “Graveyard Girl,” both of which possess an even more affirming quality with live drums and, at high volume, an urging to stop commenting and simply experience.
The middle of the set slowed as Gonzalez effusively thanked the audience in his French-accented impeccable English. The band played “Reunion” and “Wait,” the latter featuring an enormous duet between Gonzalez and his female keyboardist. Everything stopped for a moment. This was what the audience wanted. Next was “Midnight City,” a song with no more than four serious notes, which appeared to lift the crowd toward the top of the room, snapping digital images against the blinking stage strobes, an attempt to save this and keep it, an aperture big enough to capture the desire to feel this affirmed always. —Geoff Nelson
(M83 plays Hammerstein Ballroom on 10/2.)