Review: M83 Dazzles in Cincinnati Debut

For years, French electronic outfit M83 toiled quietly, crafting critically beloved albums for Mute Records that never quite cracked the broader consciousness. But as they steered the ship towards their own brand of new wave-infused dance rock, culminating in their breakthrough hit “Midnight City,” they finally found a broad, dedicated audience a decade into their career. As a result, the iteration of M83 that arrived in Cincinnati was a big, professional operation: tight, polished, larger than life. Their current tour dates include stops at major amphitheaters and festival stages, and their lightshow is built accordingly. Crammed onto the intimate Bogart’s stage, it was eyepopping sensory overload from the first chiming chords of “Reunion,” with beams of colored light reaching deep into the capacity crowd.


The evening rested heavily on their most recent two records, 2011 masterpiece Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and this year’s followup Junk. The latter has not been without its detractors, many of whom hoped for a thematic followup to the former, but in concert, the new songs fit right in. New member Kaela Sinclair took the vocal feature on several, her voice a powerful new part of the mix, and floppy-haired guitarist Jordan Lawlor helmed “Walkway Blues,” his first composition as a member of M83. He also nailed the guitar pyrotechnics on “Go!,” the territory of axe legend Steve Vai on the album version, and propelled the strange strut and queasy harmonies of “Bibi the Dog.” 


But the Hurry Up tracks were the biggest crowd pleasers, and much to everyone’s delight made up nearly half of the setlist. The deceptively simple “Wait” was the centerpiece of the set, with frontman Anthony Gonzalez illuminated at center stage, arms crossed, singing his heart out. “Send your dreams/Where nobody hides/Give your tears/To the tide.” “Midnight City” appeared, as expected, near the end of the set, and the rabid crowd went berserk at the first hint of its signature riff. Multiinstrumentalist Joe Berry took to the edge of the stage for its unapologetically unsubtle sax solo, and as it ebbed, the group pounded into “Echoes of Mine,” which finally landed on Hurry Up closer “Outro.”


They returned to the stage with Junk slow jam “Solitude,” before closing the night with an extended and intense instrumental section. Gonzalez wrang the deep opening notes of “Couleurs” from his massive analog synthesizer array, and the Saturdays = Youth standout raged for most of ten minutes, building from one peak to the next. It settled into the slow, majestic build of “Lower Your Eyes To Die With The Sun,” the oldest song they performed, dating back to 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. Lawlor EBowed the soaring lead line, and Loïc Maurin’s furious drumming brought the post-rock epic to a stunning climax. The group took a bow at center stage, and Gonzalez promised he’d “see us soon” before disappearing behind their LED-spangled starscape backdrop.My biggest takeaway from the show was just how much of a unified band they are. While the project is often portrayed as Gonzalez’s solo gig (and indeed, many of the albums are), the live show is very much a team effort, not just with Lawlor and Sinclair’s aforementioned star turns, but also Gonzalez’s general willingness to step to the back and let a song build. They are a tremendously powerful and potent force in concert, and we can only hope it doesn’t take another 15 years for them to come back around.

Bob Moses

Openers Bob Moses took the stage promptly at 8:30, settled into a groove, and barely changed the tempo for 40 minutes--not a criticism, mind you. Haloed by a single spotlight, producer and instrumentalist Jimmy Vallance crafted murky, crackling beats, bobbing to the rhythm as singer Tom Howie spun his hypnotic, repetitive verses and guitar lines. Drawing from their debut Days Gone By, released last fall, they had the crowd on their side from the start, but people really perked up at the opening peals of “Tearing Me Up,” the duo’s best-known song to date. Keep an eye on these two; next time they’re at Bogart’s, they may be filling it on their own. 

Check out pics from the show HERE!

M83 setlist:
Do It, Try It
Steve McQueen
We Own The Sky
Walkway Blues
OK Pal
Road Blaster
Bibi the Dog
Midnight City
Echoes of Mine

Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun 

Bob Moses setlist:
Far From The Tree
Like It Or Not
Before I Fall
All I Want
Tearing Me Up