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Live Review: M83

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I’ve always hated the term “bro.” It’s a condescending and broad label that belongs on the same toxic shelf as its nefarious cousin, “hipster.”

But shit, man, the bros were out in full force for the M83 show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Thursday night.

The levels of aggressive beer-chugging, back-slapping, and rowdy behavior were way beyond what I expected for a show featuring a French dude who specializes in symphonic music productions.

My first instinct, when it comes to these situations, is to be a reactionary elitist, hissing at the meatheads who show up to a party I’ve been enjoying for a decade. My second, and more appropriate instinct, is to think:  “Fuck it,  at least these guys are giving money to M83, as opposed to, say, Kings of Leon. Plus, who am I to judge? I know I’ve been the asshole at the show before.”

Either way, Anthony Gonzalez — the creative force behind M83 — didn’t seem concerned one bit about the makeup of his crowd at the cavernous Civic Center venue. The show didnt’ sellout — M83 hasn’t quite reached the critical mass to fill the 7,000-capacity site — but Gonzalez and company made perfect music to reach the rafters of the massive event center.

I’ve said in these pages before that no rock band can match the live energy of Tame Impala, but that group deals in worldly concerns, and M83 is another beast entirely. Gonzalez composes interplanetary tunes — music meant to reach distant galaxies and reach the heights of stars (which is why you hear his songs in so many sci-fi movie trailers). There is a whimsical grandeur to his music that evokes nostalgia and collectiveness in a way that his peers simply can’t match.

On Thursday night, those endearing attributes were amplified more than ever. Gonzalez dipped into his nonpareil back catalog, paying particular attention to the hits from his sublime double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, like “Midnight City,” “Steve McQueen,” and “Reunion.”  He also showcased material from his latest release, Junk, an album that has received mixed-reviews so far, but is destined for cult status in a few years. Songs like “Do It, Try” and “Road Blaster” are unapologetically cheesy, but they are fucking great to listen to once you accept them for what they are: tasty pieces of ear candy.

While he’s obviously a preternatural songwriter, Gonzalez’s greatest quality may be his complete lack of ego. M83 started off as a mainly-wordless musical project, and Gonzalez doesn’t seem to be completely comfortable embracing his status as a pop singer. Throughout his performance on Thursday night, he ceded the lead vocal spotlight to his uber-talented supporting cast, including Mai Lan, his Junk collaborator who completely took over the reins for tunes like “Go” and “Laser Gun.”

That fact remains evident in how he chose to close out his set list. While the band ended its initial run with a rendition of “Outro,” his inspiring, swelling anthem from Hurry Up, Gonzalez opted to wind down the encore with two instrumental numbers: the rollicking “Couleurs”  from 2008’s Saturdays=Youth and the ambitious and immaculately-titled “Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun,” off the group’s 2005 release, Before the Dawn Heals Us.

It was a stirring way to wrap up another stellar night from M83. Whether it was a bro, hipster, fantasy nerd, or curious dad out on the town, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone without goosebumps by the end of the show.

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Will Reisman @j_schiewe

Jessie Schiewe was the Music Editor for SF Weekly from Fall 2015 to Summer 2017. She is now the editor and publisher of OK Whatever (www.okwhatever.org), an online publication dedicated to all things weird and strange. You can send her mail at jessie@okwhatever.org.

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