Live Review: M83 with Active Child, Black Cat, Washington DC – 28th October 2011

By on Thursday, 3rd November 2011 at 2:00 pm

M83 (Anthony Gonzalez and his band) began their tour of North America last Friday night in Washington. One show wasn’t enough; once the first announced show sold out, a second early show was added to keep pace with ticket demand. Even so, there were hordes of people on eBay and DC Craiglist desperate for tickets to *either* show. I didn’t think it was likely I’d get in but at the very last minute I was able to get a press pass to the early show, so after several years of being away from us, I can now say I was at the first North American show of the ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ world campaign. (Read Braden’s review here.)

Opening for M83, especially since M83 hasn’t toured in ages, is a difficult undertaking. Enter Active Child, aka Pat Grossi, a ginger-haired boy next door who certainly doesn’t sound like the boy next door. By that, I mean he’s like a male version of Enya, with a new age-y sound (harps aren’t really commonplace at rock shows, are they?) and a voice that contorts into warblings to effervescent echoes against Cut Copy-esque dance beats. Let’s face it, any band going up against the long awaited return of M83 really don’t have a chance to be bigger than the shadow of M83 in the audience’s mind, but I have to say Grossi and his band held their own admirably; his style is nothing like Gonzalez’s, so they aren’t in direct competition, which is smart gig programming. I wasn’t bored by this opening set, I was more intrigued.

Very rarely are there double-headers of the same artist at the Black Cat; the only artist of recent memory to do the same – and sell out both early and late shows – was Neko Case. So besides having this distinction, I can surely say that the M83 gig I attended had to be one of the very few acts to ever have the guts to use lasers in the about 600-capacity club. I’ve seen strobes inside this club before. But lasers are for stadium bands like Muse, right? Wrong. It felt like Gonzalez had packed the emotions, power and spectacle of a stadium show into the relatively tiny Black Cat.

While I felt it was weird that ‘Run Into Flowers’ was not played (unless while I was absorbed into the visual spectacle of M83, which is entirely possible), I’m guessing it was played at the later show. However, our crowd was the first to see and hear the newest M83 single ‘Midnight City’, which was larger than life. The whole club pulsed like one huge heart along to the rhythms being played onstage, and you were led, happily swept away if you will, by the atmosphere. If you have tickets to the December London Heaven show that sold out ages ago, you are in for a real treat in a couple of weeks.


After the cut: more photos and set list.

M83 Photos:

M83 Set List:
Midnight City
Teen Angst
Kim and Jessie
Year One, One UFO
We Own the Sky
Steve McQueen
Claudia Lewis
Guitar and a Head
Skin of the Night

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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