Event: M83 “The Fantasy Tour”
Date: May 6, 2023 (SOLD OUT)
Venue: The Ogden Amphitheater, Ogden Twilight series concerts.
City: Ogden, Utah
In a world where we are all so connected by technology, sometimes you have to just “Be there” to connect. The French Electronic rock band “M83” will do just that. They are an atmospheric “Dream-Pop” band, that covers so many genres of sound, riding somewhere between New Order and Tangerine Dream, whilst venturing into Vangelis spacescape territory. You have heard plenty of their work for the better part of 20 years in some of the strangest films, “Oblivion”, “The Gambler”, a perfume commercial, and even the zombie comedy film “Warm Bodies”. Like the friendships in the song “Temptation” by New Order, you have no place for them in your life, their music is never invited, but always welcome.
Utah is a “High Desert” mountainous territory, that is usually dry. May 6th was a very cold, and rainy day in Ogden, sitting at 5000 feet, with snow still coming down just 2 miles away. That set the atmosphere for M83 to give deliver in an almost torrential downpour, and honestly, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Sitting in the 4th row was the supporting act, Jeremiah Chiu, just hanging out with friends. He then just walked onto the stage and started playing his analog synthesizer. It was really cool to see, in a “Wendy and Walter Carlos” kind of way. As he played, he switched out cables and turned knobs to make his music, while delivering a “pre” Depeche Mode type synth sound, reminiscent of Kraftwerk, and Yello. He did a Kraftwerk cover, and didn’t sing a word, but reminded us all of the early 80s video games.
The stage had a “Stranger Things” motif for a very “Sci-Fi” feel, but we were still unsure what we were going to experience. The intro piece for any show is incredibly important, whether it’s an atmospheric intro song by another band, an audio clip, or a speech, the mindset and mood you need to be in are so important for the rest of the show. For so many bands, the performance begins before the set, often before the band even takes the stage.
The band came to the stage while Kaela Sinclair in a dress with the funkiest clash of colors began playing a synth line to “Water Deep” that the rest of the band plugged in and started playing on top of as an intro with Anthony Gonzales on vocals, he managed to keep the focus not just on himself, but to blend in with the rest of the band. The rain was pouring down on the punters, with beautiful seascape background lights until everyone was in position with their instruments. Suddenly there were “Red Alert” lights flashing, showing the entire band onstage, and the drums kicked in, synced with the lights, we were now into “Oceans Niagara”, the fog and the mist from the rain added to the ambiance coming from the stage. The band were in hoodies and it was so cold you could see their breath in the air. The lights illuminate the stage and at the same time leave only the silhouette of the musicians.
They went from atmospheric to danceable as they rolled into “Amnesia”, a very joyful sounding tune you would have found easily in the new wave clubs of the 80s, mixed with synth and bass lines of Ultravox and a Flock of Seagulls. This is just “Feel good” music with a great atmosphere.
Kaela Sinclair moved over to a sit-down piano, and they went into “Us and The Rest”, another dreamy opus with acoustic guitars and the light show slowed down to keep everyone just swaying in the rain. “Run Into Flowers” had a switch out of instruments, violin instead of guitar, and the light show animated on the screens behind them looked like some of the monsters on “Stranger Things”.
The Light show for “Gone” was reminiscent of the alien ships landing in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, so many times through the show, I almost forget that you have a band there to watch, as you are paying more attention to the lights and the screens. By this time we were unsure if that was atmosphere fog, or just from the rain. It was strange to see it this way because the backdrop looked like a very bright sun obscured by the heat shifting off the ground. We could see the effects, but still experience something so cold at the same time.
There was a vocal like “chanting” as the new age “Kenny G” sax kicked into a disco riff while they played the title track from the new album “Fantasy”, with the visuals of the face of a monster in luminescence on the screen. A scary-looking space alien, to disco music, yeah, that’s what we came here for tonight.
They played through “Lara” with a lot of saxes, “Don’t Save Us From The Flames” and then “NOISE” until they got to the one song that made me fall in love with their music “Wait”. It was a dreamy opus, that you just had to let it take you where it wanted to. It reminded you of the sound of water dripping down a deep shaft before it splashed at the bottom, and how that sound travels. They sang like you were at sea, and underneath them were the sounds of great whales carrying the music. Yeah, it was all just like that. “No Time” was the only word you could discern from the rest of the song, and that was all you needed to know. M83’s music is heavily focused on moving feelings around inside of you, more than you trying to listen to the words.
Kaela Sinclair was the only band member in the lights while she sang “Solitude”, the rest of the band was barely lit while they took us through this dreamy Pink Floyd-esque experience. This was just a science fiction soundtrack, while the violin played, the drums began to pound and I was feeling it shake my entire frame. “Teen Angst” along with “We Own The Sky” lead us to a dancy synthesizer tune straight out of the dreamy ambient numbers we had just been through. It was almost like CHVRCHES on ambient speed, it was absolutely wonderful to be seeing and hearing this carnival of light and sound.
After a high-intensity dream, M83 gave us “Midnight City” with all the power you would expect. Even the band was dancing, almost pogo-stick dancing, these guys are very energetic on stage. While the rest of us were in the cold, the drummer was stripped down to only his shorts, and Anthony the singer was out getting everyone in the audience to clap along with him, while steam was rising off the drummer. (It was a cold night). Everyone was disco dancing to “Mirror”, and since it was sold out, and standing room only, one of the guitarists took off his monitor pack and went crowd surfing knowing there were plenty of people to pass him around. Anthony G sat down on the edge of the stage and sang to everyone at eye level in the pit. If you think they would be mellow, and just play their instruments, you would be so surprised at how animated and interactive they are with the punters. The visuals were a mix of the original “Bubblicious” gum commercials from the 70s, with early 80s video game graphics, with the light show meant to distract you from even noticing the band on the stage playing the music.
They closed out with “Outro” and a blinding crescendo of blue lights, and at full volume. It was so loud, my body was shaking, and my earplugs were useless, it was as loud and as perfectly in tune as if it was a SWANS concert.
With a stage setup looking like it was from some of our favorite science fiction films growing, up and the music taking us to exactly those places and beyond, M83 is a must see performance. Even better if it is a cold rainy night.