Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez, and his M83 project have received international acclaim since releasing their self titled debut in 2001, becoming known as one of the world’s best experimental electronic pop innovators along the way. Really though, M83’s popularity has grown exponentially over the last five years in the US and beyond since the release of the hit single “Midnight City” off of their 2011 album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. After 2008’s Saturdays
I first saw M83 on Halloween night back in 2011 at Masquerade Atlanta in Heaven. It’s a show that still sticks out in my mind all these years later. It was a combination of that single. “Midnight City”, and the ethereal songs on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, seeing M83 on a frightful Halloween night, and at of all places, Atlanta’s spookiest venue just as M83 was really blowing up big. The show was sold out to the brink and we were all packed in to one hot and sweaty mess. It was just one of those magical evening where we all danced and got entranced by the piercing lights and Anthony Gonzalez’s immersive show and soundscapes.
On Monday night though, M83 played at one of Atlanta’s most magical venues, the Tabernacle, where many of my personal favorite concerts have occurred over the years. There’s just something unmatched at the Tab when 2500 people quit trying to be cool or playing catch up with friends while at a concert, and instead become totally engulfed together with the artists on stage. The Tabernacle seems to have a way about it to get people to let loose and remember why they are there, for the music. It’s definitely not every time, but it occurs plenty at Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta. I figured M83 had the potential to take over the Tabernacle. They did, and more.
M83 did a great job of mixing up their setlist, starting with the first song “Reunion”, that kicked off the night right, and third song “Steve McQueen” off of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming that already had the majority of the crowd lost in M83. How could you not with those ethereal synths haunting your brains? The 2nd song “Do It, Try It”, one of the singles off of Junk, got the crowd losing itself dancing along over the pop song with club beats and piano lines. The 4th song, “We Own The Sky” off of Saturdays = Youth, slowed down the tempo slightly and allowed the audience to feel the music in a more introspective way.
M83 continued to mix up the setlist, jumping around to favorites from his albums, taking the audience through a dream sequence of highs and lows. “Solitude” off the new album, enabled the new material to take the audience on a thrilling high, with heavy synths lines that felt larger than life. “Wait”, showed off Gonzalez’s auto tuned vocals that rang throughout the old church. “Go!” had the bodies moving profusely, and the guitar solo by Jordan Lawlor left the audience captivated and reveling in the music. Of course, once M83 hit “Midnight City” the audience completely lost it, the whole damn place was dancing, and it doesn’t get much better than that live sax from Joe Berry. During the encore, M83 closed out the evening with “Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun” off of 2005’s Before The Dawn Heals US, allowing the synths to take over and close this show down with the absolutely stunning light show that their team put together for this tour.
M83 left the audience with something to remember. What really made this show stand out was that M83 seemed to be much bigger than just Anthony Gonzalez, instead this was an impressive, tight knit band that was one unit. The production work on M83’s albums has always been insanely good, and sometimes lost in the production is what it takes to actually make these soundscapes come alive. Seeing it come together live with more than just computers, but a full band of multiple live instruments really made this show hum. Anthony Gonzalez himself, choose to sit more in the background, though front and center, staying mostly in one position while the guitarist danced around the stage keeping the audience pumped. Each member of the band was allowed to have their own little spotlights throughout the evening, becoming a bigger part of the show itself than I remember in other instances of seeing M83 live. Some of that credit especially goes to the new album Junk, but you can tell this is a band, even with some new members, that are having fun on stage together. Anthony Gonzalez eventually let loose on stage too, but M83 is more than just him, he’s only the brainchild and lifeblood behind it. And together, M83 puts on an impressive show in both your ears and your eyes.
West London based singer songwriter Shura opened up for M83 with shoegazy ballads of pop and R&B soundscapes influenced by the 80’s and 90’s off of her 2016 debut album Nothing’s Real. The young songstress had the crowd nicely warmed up and enjoying the beats before M83’s set.
Check out more photos from Monday night’s M83 and Shura show at Tabernacle Atlanta, shot by Mike Gerry:
Monday Night’s M83 Setlist: