The prospect of seeing M83 live at all is a pretty damn exciting one. The fact that in the past year they have released one of the most extraordinary albums of the year, and toured with gargantuan stadium bands like The Killers, makes this prospect even more mouthwatering. Frontman Anthony Gonzales has clearly been studiously taking notes watching his tour mates, and both live and on their recent album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, a new found vocal confidence and a sprinkle of rock star posturing is evident.
Support band Porcelain Raft offer what is essentially smaller scale, less confident version of the danceable, electronic shoegaze music that is M83’s speciality. In theory they are the perfect support band for M83, but playing directly before them merely serves to highlight how far they have to stretch themselves to even approach the dizzy heights Anthony Gonzales has reached. Perhaps that is simply the bias that comes with being an obsessive M83 fan, but the crowd response is fairly muted, so perhaps I’m not alone. Their set was littered with a few very striking and memorable songs which saved them from being a misfire altogether, and the ethereal voice of frontman Mauro Remiddi was undeniably beautiful.
By the time M83 take to the stage, Oxford’s O2 Academy is completely rammed. After the mysterious masked figure featured on the Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming artwork, takes to the stage and riles up the crowd without even moving, M83 begin powering through their set with little fanfare. Older material is sped up and given a new, dancier energy to coincide with their energetic recent musical output, and fan favorites such as ‘Kim And Jessie’ are greeted with enthusiasm from the assembled die hards. M83’s hugely successful recent single ‘Midnight City’ being featured in countless adverts, montages and Made In Chelsea arguably explains the attendance of some unlikely looking audience members who seems hellbent on dancing to anything and everything they hear.
After some technical difficulties delay the show for a good 20 minutes, the band launch back into a rip roaring, energetic set, heavy on new material and extended disco reworkings of instrumental tracks. Gonzales has clearly grown as a vocalist and the hushed, breathy vocals of the past are replaced by soaring harmonies and Robert Smith-esque yelps and female vocalist Morgan Kibby’s epic, house-diva vocal freestyling lends a dramatic flare and surprising energy. Gonzales even throws in some genuine rock star posing, which nicely matches the bombastic drum fills and waves of noise M83 are known for.
Towards the end of the set, the band launches into massive single ‘Midnight City’, which garners a considerably more enthusiastic response from the crowd. They then disappear off stage, only to reappear moments later for an encore of old fan favourites, brilliantly recreated and enhanced by what is clearly an unbelievable live band. And with that, the hands in the air euphoria is over, and everyone has to go back to their mundane lives, and attempt to get over the revelatory experience of seeing one of the best bands around at the top of their game.