I Dream of M83

If, as Baudelaire said, “Genius is childhood recalled at will,” then the latest era of M83 is nothing short of genius.  Showered in accolades from across the music industry as of late, they have been making some really big music industry ripples in a voice-of-a-generation kind of way that made arriving at The Ogden Theater to see their sold out show feel something like completing a pilgrimage.

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a piece of work written on the ribbons of endless West Coast interstate so pervasive in the frames of Hollywood. The deserts and coastline of California are what French-born front-man Anthony Gonzalez now calls home, and he cites the film industry as inspiration for an album that is “almost written like a soundtrack of an imaginary movie.”

Grandeur and bombast abound, and from the way he talks about it to the way he performs it, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming feels like the kind of musician’s magnum opus whereupon an auteur spends those secret saved-up parts of their soul.

The themes and places Gonzalez cites for inspiration are as diverse as they are numerous. It is in part a tribute to ’80s music, which he calls “a brilliant period for music history,” but also divulges that the album is a tribute to his teenage years, enough to say that “the main theme of the album is being a teenager.” Youth permeates the album as a motif, from the boy and girl in melancholic embrace on the cover, to the little girl in “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” (“Tell Me A Story”), who recounts transformation into a frog, and finally—unforgettably—to the gang of psychokinetic super children in the video for Midnight City,” now making a reappearance in the soon-to-be-released follow-up video “Reunion.”

There’s an innocence in grasp here by way of which M83 vindicates our past to our present. Arriving at the foot of the stage, what they’ve done to the Ogden looks like the absolution of some late ’80s childhood memory, like your glow-in-the-dark star covered ceiling or the neon laser backgrounds you begged your mom for the extra $4 for on school picture day. Gonzalez is debuting a new side of himself as a performer and as a vocalist, and it’s flagship for the arrival of an altogether very new M83.

Beginning the show as it should begin with the album’s “Intro,” an empty stage begins to rumble under three transpositions of low synth and those deliciously kitschy 16ths that quickly inoculate any chatter from an anticipating Ogden Theater.  From out of the black, that eldritch abomination off the cover of the “Midnight City” single stalks onstage and raises its claws to the audience. It’s right then that we all know we are about to see the real thing; this is M83.

A few songs into their set, they’re pulling out M83 vintage, “We Own The Sky” from their 2008 release. Re-imagined by a more mature musicality, the vocals—performed beautifully by voice over Morgan Kibby—are brought to the front of the mix, and the low end is more defined but also more refined. For a live performance to outpace such a gamut beyond the recorded performance is considerable when the record is by most any means perfect.  Onstage they interact like a sort of non-nuclear musical family, pairing off for mid-song dance vignettes, the most notable of which goes to youngest looking member Jordan Lawlor, an effluvia of blond locks and footwork. The lullaby lights drop out as abruptly as do their instruments and the stage is static for a moment.

Then the stage reactivates, but something is different, the single color webwork of flourescent lights have lit up in a spectrum of pastels, and the starscape behind the stage have shifted into unnatural hues like we’ve descended into a lower wavelength of sleep, and a stranger dream. It’s at this very moment the band drops into the unmistakable chanting of “Fall,” off the legendary remix album released in the glow of TRON last year. A production I consider the vocal progenitor to Midnight City—as I‘m sure enlistment to the remix coincided with production of a then in-vitro Hurry Up We‘re Dreaming—“Fall” is metallic, impactful, and reaches a climax-denoument that’s more energetic than anything I’ve ever heard.

I don’t know how to describe “Midnight City” short of a religious experience. I have no idea what “Waiting in a car, waiting for a ride in the dark” means, but then and there in Gonzalez’s earnestness, it seemed to speak to the whole condition of the human race as Gonzalez and the Ogden crowd sang to each other and shouted in unison “City is my church!”

Saxophone stuck around through “Midnight City” and into an encore of “Skin of the Night” and an extended and liberated “Couleurs” and proved that saxophone is indeed a solo instrument. As “Coulers” built to a climax, Gonzalez shouted “Denver!” in succession, getting louder and louder each time.  Lights went up, and then for a few moments more than this frequent showgoer knows is average, the crowd at the Ogden just stood in place, as if waking up from a dream.

Photos by SneakyBoy Studios

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