By Russell Warfield
July 16, 2012
Whenever I’ve been unable to truly connect with M83 on record – especially at sprawling junctures during their most recent, heavily loaded double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – I still always harboured the suspicion that the material would bowl me over in the live setting. Whilst slightly missing the mark for me from time to time through headphones, M83 always sound hugely cinematic – and I was sure that their live performance must be a gigantic, pulsating, immersion of rolling arpeggios and throbbing beats. Tonight, as I arrive at the illustrious outdoor courtyard of the beautiful Somerset House, I’m struck that – if my instincts are correct – this would be one of the most stunning settings to be smothered by their dreamy electronics.
And, thankfully, I am indeed largely correct – the band sounding toweringly immense for the duration of their hour-and-a-half set, turning even their lacklustre studio material into spiralling anthems, set to shimmering lights in the sort of sun-setting-on-beautiful-architecture landscape you could drink like wine. Early cut ‘Reunion’ is one of the instant winners from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and its unstoppable chorus cuts straight to the chase as effectively as you’d expect it to on stage. But, more thrillingly, even some of the more bloated passages of the last record turn into more full blooded beasts tonight. On record, ‘Year One, One UFO’ moves like an instrumental passage they’d previously bettered, bagging down an already long LP. Tonight however, the band’s live energy push its repetition and expanding textures towards hedonism and euphoria.
So it’s little surprise that the moments which glisten even on record absolutely dazzle tonight. A slightly stripped back version of ‘We Own The Sky’ introduces the glistening female vocals to the fray with true elegance; the thinner textures showcasing the dreamy melody at first, before swelling into the divine textures of its coda with an arresting yet gentle elegance. It’s interesting to notice that, on record, I’d always mistakenly heard the repeated final line as “what’s going on?” Tonight, it’s crystal clear – as M83 stridently paint dreamy colour with complete command – she’s actually singing “it’s coming on”; and it’s easy to believe her – whatever she means by it – with the music’s ascending drama sounding like it could be building to absolutely anything. And of course, the final encore of an unsurprisingly intoxicating rendition of ‘Couleurs’ (with added bonus sax, for extra smoky-dream points) pushes the set’s final moments into the band’s most dizzying climax – a hypnotic exercise in time-stopping/stretching musicianship, conclusively proving M83′s credentials as a live force, even after their most indifferently received studio effort.