The Forum. There’s just something magical about the iconic Melbourne venue situated right in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. It seems to bring out the best in every act that plays there and this reviewer can, without a doubt, swear that he has never seen a bad show there.
This time I get to witness French based, electronic band, M83, led by front man Anthony Gonzales. Together with his 5-piece band, they play the first of 2 sold out Forum shows in support of new album Junk.
I’m greeted with a fairly healthy turnout as I walk through the hallowed Forum doors in perfect time to see local boy, Japanese Wallpaper. Gab Strum and his guitarist make their way through a set filled with ‘nice’ sounds and ‘nicer’ sounding songs. Even throwing in a cover a Bjork’s ‘Hyperballad’ for good measure and bringing out songstress Airling for set closer, ‘Forces’. Unfortunately ‘nice’ is all it ever amounted to, as the songs never commanded your attention, they only reminded me of just how much my mother would like them. Take from that what you will; she does have fantastic taste in music.
Once the lights dimmed on Japanese Wallpaper’s set it’s time for Anthony Gonzalez and his band to take the stage. Now I’ve seen many shows here but after the first note was struck on set opener ‘Reunion’, it was clear that M83 was about the raise the bar. The band kicked in and you could feel every note. Those deep bass sounds that M83 are known for making your insides move in the best possible way while their trademark, euphoria inducing sounds filled the room and put the entire crowds hands into the sky time and time again. After proclaiming that “last time was a disaster” and that he was going to try and make it up to us, I was fairly certain, he was about to make good on his promise. Even if I didn’t know what he was talking about. I thought last time was world class.
As they made their way through tracks from their last 4 albums, it was so hard to find a true standout. ‘Midnight City’, M83’s biggest single to date, got the biggest crowd response (especially with an extended sax solo), while ‘Steve Mcqueen’ and ‘Echos Of Mine’ we’re mind blowing. For me though, ‘We Own The Sky’ from break out album Saturday=Youth was easily the most memorable. Even the new album took on a life of it’s own on the live stage. While some of the tracks on Junk descend a little too far into ‘Family Matters’ territory (take a listen to ‘Moon Crystal’ to get what I mean), on stage, they make perfect sense. Current singles ‘Do it, Try it’ and ‘Go!’ got the whole crowd moving while ‘Walkaway Blues’ oozed sex appeal.
Surprisingly, of the 5-piece band on stage, Gonzalez, who essentially is M83, was the least charismatic. He meandered around the stage, introvertedly played his guitar and danced without ever really letting go. For most of the set, I found myself not even looking at him. My eyes, along with the sold out crowd we’re fixed solely on his charismatic multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lawlor and breathtaking keyboardist/singer, Kaela Sinclair. Both members having been found after Anthony held open auditions through the M83 website to join the touring band. Jordan way back in 2011, Kaela only jumping on board this past February. Kaela proving that she was the perfect person for the job after taking the lead on ‘Oblivion’, a track written for the Sci-fi movie of the same name which features the vocals of longtime collaborator, Susanne Sundfør. An incredibly tough vocal that was perfect in execution.
Closing out the main set with ‘Outro’, it wasn’t long before the crowd started screaming for the obligatory encore. Unfortunately a necessary evil these days the band headed back on stage to play new track, ‘For The Kids’ before Jordan commanded your attention while taking lead cowbell role on the dance floor starting, ‘Couleres’. Closing one of the more memorable Forum shows with the oldest track of the night, ‘Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun’.
High production, high execution and most of all high energy. Anthony Gonzales knows exactly how to inject every ounce of emotion into his music, which is only exaggerated on the live stage. If he calls tonight’s show a disaster too, I’m going to have to assume that “disaster” is just French for “flawless”.