M83 - The Music Box - 11/9/11
See also: M83's Anthony Gonzalez Makes Soundtracks, Without The Movie
The Music Box
Better than: Having to actually be 16 again.
At the risk of completely disavowing any claims of critical distance, this was the concert event of 2011 for yours truly and I don't care who knows it. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is my favorite record of the year by a long stretch and Saturdays=Youth was the same back in 2008.
Somehow, a record as epic and emotionally bulldozing as Before The Dawn Heals Us is this guy's fourth-best album. My companion for the evening was fully debriefed about how things might get a little dusty if they played "Graveyard Girl."
But it felt like there was at stake than merely a snarky-ass music writer being reduced to a gelatinous heap of emo genes (typical midset palate cleanser: "My Tears Are Becoming A Sea"). While Hurry Up is something of a comprehensive survey of everything M83 has done since Anthony Gonzalez started composing ambient doodles back in France, it's also the beginning phase in the experiment of M83: Rock Stars. When I spoke to Gonzalez prior to the release of Hurry Up, he was rather candid in admitting towards its commercial aspirations. In short, he wouldn't mind being Coldplay or Daft Punk, but somehow combining both of their profiles is the ultimate goal.
Is it working? Well, Hurry Up debuted at #15 on the Billboard charts, last night's show sold out almost immediately, and as if "Midnight City" wasn't already laser-guided enough towards the affections of teenage boys, it's now in a Victoria's Secret ad. (Which also answered the question of what was left to make that song better than it already is.) It wasn't the first time M83 had packed this place, and the expectation was that this would be something of a farewell celebration from a band whose sound and profile have outgrown clubs. Did they pull it off?
It's tough to say. Above all else, M83 seeks to soundtrack the vertiginous slopes of your emotions, making a personality vacuum at their shows something of a necessity. L.A. resident Nika Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, appears for "Intro" (most misleadingly mundane title ever!) and showed why the partnership was so inspired. While Danilova is a magnetic stage presence, she often lacks hooks that are its equal. Meanwhile, while Anthony Gonzalez has written so many overpowering, hormone-triggering synth-pop masterworks, well...it's still tough to see him as something other than a guy most comfortable hunched over a bank of keyboards.