Home Live Review Live Review: M83 @ The Anthem — 4/22/23

Live Review: M83 @ The Anthem — 4/22/23

Live Review: M83 @ The Anthem — 4/22/23
Anthony Gonzalez of M83 performs at The Anthem in DC on April 22, 2023. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

When listening to M83, the synth-driven cooperative headed by multi-instrumentalist Anthony Gonzalez, you may grasp for a comprehensive characterization. Are you listening to psychedelic music? New wave? Synth-wave? Dreampop?

As circular as you can be with those listening experiences, M83 defies convention with their big post-rock orchestration. To embrace each M83 song as its own unique missive is the key to understanding what you are hearing.

That said, M83 placed the guitar squarely at the center of the band’s new album and recent concert performance at The Anthem in DC, and so let’s begin by pondering their music through the lens of the guitar.

At The Anthem on April 22, Anthony Gonzalez strode simply onto the center stage, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, to demonstrate his tremendous guitar chops. As the M83 project players weaved melodies around him, Anthony held that guitar at the center of attention. M83 began the show with a trio of songs from a new album, Fantasy (released in March via Mute Records) — “Water Deep,” “Oceans Niagra,” and “Amnesia.”

The instrumental track “Water Deep” was a rumbling, relaxing affair that lent a shoegazing atmosphere to the show. From there, Anthony and M83 stepped things up in a big way with “Oceans Niagra,” which pulsed life into the venue around us. The very packed room at The Anthem was totally present for this intro, which swept the venue with the full M83 sound.

And even Anthony seemed a bit happily nonplussed to be in such a big space. The prior night, M83 performed at the venerable Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia, which holds a maximum of 3,000 people. The Anthem holds 6,000, and it was very nearly sold out. “We’re not usually in such a large venue,” Anthony confessed. But M83’s sonic output was more than equal to the task of filling the voluminous Anthem with wondrously flowing music.

Watch the official music video for “Oceans Niagra” by M83 on YouTube:

“Oceans Niagra” was also mostly an instrumental affair as the song only has two (shouted) words — “Beyond adventure!” M83 presented the more traditional composition “Amnesia” next, and the song had a full slate of lyrics to accompany its bright synth-forward new wave delivery.

Fantasy is the ninth M83 album, and the album smartly resurfaced M83 12 years after their breakthough (and sixth studio album) Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. In the time since, M83 published two generally well-received albums, Junk (2016) and DSVII (2019), but Fantasy truly took M83 to the next level, in part by leaning into the band’s expansive sound. The album’s “Sunny Boy” and “Sunny Boy Part 2,” which dominated the second half of the main set, was a study in miniature of all of the M83 cooperative’s strengths. The first, a romantic stretch of yearning with a clever lyric of a “star-struck” narrator feeling “cosmic adrenaline” for a “radiant queen.” The Part 2 song was another instrumental, spotlighting the embraceable M83 shoegazing.

M83 dedicated about half of their 20-song setlist to Fantasy, which was a smart move as it deftly contextualized M83’s music for a very large crowd. But thankfully, M83 didn’t forget “the hits,” and drew another five songs from the aforementioned Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The band ended the main set with he somber, minimalist “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea,” which was a good ending point.

But then they kicked off a three-song encore with indie smash “Midnight City.” “Midnight City” exercised the full power of M83, bringing the audience to their feat and lifting their spirits in a way that few other songs could. The deceptively simple lyrics — the refrain of “waiting in a car” — captured a powerful sense of anticipation, of longing, of ready for whatever was next, and you could feel the electricity in the room during M83’s performance of the song.

Watch the official music video for “Midnight City” by M83 on YouTube:

Throughout the show, M83 dazzled with a flowering blue and purple light show that augmented the psychedelics of the concert experience. I feel like there are a few parallels that can be drawn between M83 right now and mid-’70s Pink Floyd in their intent not only to break rock conventions — but also to transport an audience through music.

Take the trip yourself with M83 as the band tour across the USA through mid-May.

Here are some photos of M83 performing at The Anthem on April 22, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.



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