Few live shows are as hotly anticipated as M83’s return to Vancouver was on April 27. Frontman Anthony Gonzalez’s rock-infused electro-pop band has played to nothing short of sold-out shows almost every time they’ve made their way to Canada’s West Coast, and Friday night’s concert at the historic Vogue Theatre was no different.
Swedish export I Break Horses opened the night with a selection of songs from their 2011 debut Hearts. Made up of Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck, I Break Horses’ sound is soft shoegaze amped up with galloping drum beats, all done electronically. While the band’s stage presence exposed their naiveté in front of a live audience, they managed to push out a few noteworthy songs, including “Empty Bottles”, “Load Your Eyes”, and “Winter Beats”, which showed off Lindén’s soft-spoken vocals.
When M83 finally hit the stage, they opened with a dramatic, nearly seizure-inducing light show. Four large V-shaped beams gleamed bright neon lights, while strobes attached to the top end of each V created a hypnotic effect as the band dove into “Teen Angst” off 2055’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. Without stopping, Gonzalez (accompanied by Morgan Kibby, Yann Gonzalez, and LoÏc Maurin on stage) started up the alt-rock sounding “Graveyard Girls” off Saturdays = Youth.
Finally stopping to catch his breath, Gonzalez yelled to the audience, “Let’s celebrate!” to roaring applause and agreement before kicking off the high-energy party anthem “Reunion” off their latest release Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Needless to say, it got the entire room up on its feet, bouncing to the ‘80s electro-pop vibes. Keeping the energy high, the band bolted into the all-instrumental “Sitting”, and if the song still had you doing just that, the four up on stage danced it up enough for all of us.
Moving swiftly through “Year One, One UFO”, “We Own the Sky”, and “Steve McQueen”, M83 finally paused long enough to catch their breath, with the shoegazing rock lullaby “Wait”. Even during this slower track, the urgency in Gonzalez’s captivating vocals never left, and there was an intensity and purpose each time he cried out “no time” in the chorus.
It wasn’t before long when the synths were turned back up for “Fall” from the Tron: Legacy Reconfigured soundtrack. While “Bright Flash” shone, it was nothing compared to the electro-pop anthem “Midnight City”, which got the entire crowd up on its feet again, dancing (and in at least one case, grinding) to the catchy riff.
Taking the energy down a notch to end the night, M83 closed out their set with the very Scarface-sounding slow-mover “Skin of the Night” followed by the popular bop-inducing “Couleurs”. One thing that was obvious from the start and lasted throughout the nearly hour-and-half set was how tight the band sounded and how the songs translated seamlessly into a live setting. With performances like this, I have no doubt that M83 will continue their sold-out streak every time they visit Vancouver.