Gig Review: M83/Man Without Country

M83/Man Without Country, Edinburgh HMV Picturehouse, June 27, 2012

I’d been desperately hoping to get to this gig. Two days before, I received the email from the nice PR man to say that there would be two tickets on the door for me. Excellent. I then spent two days advertising everywhere finding someone who was free to go. I eventually gave up, and decided that, to hell with it, I was going by myself.

Support act, Man Without Country, are new to me, but it becomes clear within seconds that they are definitely an appropriate support act for M83. They play what I can only describe as hauntingly melodic pop, with intense, urgent beats. It seems strange that there are only three of them on stage, somehow something about their sounds would suggest that there are more of them on stage (and no, I don’t think they were using backing tracks). They don’t introduce any of their tracks, but I’m intrigued enough to go and check them out further.

At the start of M83’s set, Anthony Gonzalez walks on stage wearing an animal mask (at least, I’m assuming it was him, it was a mask after all, duh). It sets the tone for what is a fantastic set from the band. To those who have still yet to hear M83, they manage to mix krautrock (or German progressive rock, if you prefer) with eighties AOR and a lotta electronica.

I first tuned into them around the time of their third album Before The Dawn Heals Us, midway through the last decade. At the time, they provided a refreshing difference to the ongoing eighties revival and the second coming of postpunk. I was slightly put off the fifth album Saturdays =Youth (I blame the cover with the hipster teenagers on the front, personally, as to why I couldn’t connect with it). However, last year’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming has thus far proved the band’s commercial highpoint, with good reason.

The live show, mainly split between the four members on stage is a mass of dance beats, guitars and lights. Lots of flashing lights (to the point I worry, briefly, whether this is the onset of a migraine). Its music to lose, and find yourself in, and as a live show, it’s absolutely bloody glorious. Predictably, but not undeservedly, the biggest cheer of the night is reserved for ‘Midnight City’ for which a sexophonist appears out of nowhere. The effect is a little bit ravey – but thankfully more 808 State than Guru Josh. Monsieur Gonzalez thanks us profusely in English. We may have a reputation for being more reserved in Edinburgh than our neighbours forty miles along the M8, but this crowd was clearly up for it.

…And so, the next time someone tells you that you can have a free ticket to go and see M83, if you haven’t already bought yourself a ticket, take them up on it.

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