M83 at Crescent Ballroom, 11/7/11

Categories: Last Night

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Photos by Melissa Fossum

M83
Crescent Ballroom
Monday, November 7

"Epic" is a word that has come to be synonymous with the music of M83. Fans use it to describe the band's live experience and frontman Anthony Gonzalez himself has used it to describe the double-album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming; the new release he's supporting on his latest tour. So just what does "epic" sound like?

Here's what I came up with:

Last night's M83 set at Crescent Ballroom in downtown made me feel like I was at a dance party in an orb-shaped spacecraft tumbling through space en route to an exploding supernova. (I realize sound doesn't work the same way in space as it does on Earth but work with me here.) Gonzalez stood front and center of the stage as Captain of this little voyage with a command center that included a keyboard, guitar and effects box replete with various cables and knobs. "Intro," the lead track off of disc one, signified liftoff for the night.

With a twinkling starry backdrop and rotating blue spot lights Gonzalez's high-pitched vocals echoed through the venue amid various digital bleeps and bops, airy synths and driving drum rolls. Oh, and it was loud. Like really loud. Songs like, "My Tears Are Becoming A Sea," started off slow, setting a dreamy ambient atmosphere before crescendoing with a pounding bass line and bright cymbal splashes.

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While most of the set was heavy on new material including, "Reunion," "Year One, One UFO," and "Wait," the crowd needed to hear just one note to recognize 2005's "Teen Angst" before erupting into cheers.

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Although everyone on stage played their parts flawlessly, by far my favorite pairing of the night was the blend of Gonzalez's far-reaching vocals and the haunted vocals of touring bandmate Morgan Kibby; the Mr. Spock to Gonzalez's Captain Kirk. Kibby's voice soared in, "We Own the Sky" as concertgoers swayed in a wave of bobbing heads.

Banter was spared for most of the night. Instead, Gonzalez and company pranced around the stage while the sold out crowd danced and reached for the wooden trusses over head.

After a little more than an hour, our journey ended with a crash landing as "A Guitar And A Heart" blared out over flashing red lights. With whatever little room fans could find, they kept grooving to the instrumental track until the very end. It wouldn't take long for the crowd to coerce the band to retake the stage after that. Following a brief intermission, Gonzalez shotgunned a Redbull and led his troupe in a two-song encore in which he took a backseat on singing duties, instead focusing on his guitar and further sound manipulations.

How's that for epic?

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I walked in from the brisk night a few minutes past 8 p.m. so I missed the first few songs by openers, Active Child. Stepping through the doors I immediately realized two things though: First, I should have left my jacket in the car and second I was going to have a tricky time describing singer Pat Grossi's voice.

I have to say my first impression was; Rick Astley. Like at any moment he could have turned around and belted out, "Never gonna give you up / never gonna let you down / never gonna run around and desert you."

The hazy stage, subharmonic bass and Grossi's choir boy vocals helped set the dreamy ambient tone that would resonate through the night. Sitting behind his harp Grossi mixed fierce strums with delicate picks to compliment those booming vocal chords.

The quick 40-minute set was well-received by concertgoers as most of the walking space in the venue filled up. By 8:30 it was shoulder bumping room only.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: M83 at Crescent Ballroom

Personal Bias: I just watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon on DVD. That may or may not be to blame for all the sci-fi terminology in this review.

The Crowd: Coat-clad 20- and 30-somethings.

Overheard in the Crowd: I couldn't overhear shit in the crowd. Really loud, remember?

Random Notebook Dump: Here's a BIG F-You to the ASU parking attendant who didn't let my expired downtown parking permit slide in your stupid parking lot.

Set List:

Intro
Reunion
Kim & Jessie
Year One, One UFO
My Tears Are Becoming A Sea
Teen Angst
We own the Sky
Steve McQueen
Wait
This Bright Flash
Claudia Lewis
Midnight City
A Guitar And A Heart

Encore:
Skin
Couleurs

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Location Info

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Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

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