Live Review: M83 with Yacht at the Rialto Theater, Tucson, AZ – Tuesday 12th April 2016

By on Wednesday, 20th April 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

If you’re even a casual reader of TGTF, you’ll probably know by now that electronic music isn’t my particular cup of tea, though it is typically much more to editor Mary’s liking. She was quite disappointed to discover that electropop acts M83 and YACHT wouldn’t be passing through Washington, D.C. on their current tour, especially after seeing YACHT in Austin during SXSW 2016. But she did note that the Los Angeles-based bands were scheduled to play at the Rialto Theater in downtown Tucson, which is where I came into the equation.

I arrived at the venue early and was able to obtain my ticket and photo pass very easily thanks to the staff at the Rialto, so I took a spot in the crowd near the barrier and chatted a bit with some fellow punters. I was surprised to learn that many of the fans near the barrier were primarily there to see opening act YACHT, who they claimed were worthy of headline status themselves. They weren’t entirely wrong in that claim. YACHT’s Renaissance frontwoman, Claire L. Evans, who writes editorials and edits science fiction for VICE’s Motherboard channel when she’s not busy performing, was fierce and forceful from the moment she stepped onto the stage, even before she opened her mouth to sing. Throughout the set, she moved like a prowling panther on the stage, restrained by its dimensions but also using its levels and lighting to her advantage in striking a series of dramatic poses at appropriate points in the music.

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Evans’ colleagues Jona Bechtolt and Rob Kieswetter mixed energetic dance beats and intoxicating grooves under her half-sung/half-spoken vocals. To paraphrase Evans’ own description, the band juxtaposed songs about present day American society with songs about a more intimate social issue, namely sex, the latter of which inspired whistles and cheers from their audience. Most of the set list came from their current album ‘I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler’, but final track ‘Psychic City’ was apparently an older fan favourite, judging by the outbreak of ecstatic dancing at the front of the stage. On the brilliant recommendation of a fellow audience member, I took the opportunity to add the song to my own run playlist as soon as YACHT made their way off the stage.

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As spectacular as YACHT were, the production quality of the show ramped up exponentially for headline act M83. Even watching the stage crew work between the sets was rather amazing, as they rigged an amazing interplay of lights and sound equipment, the likes of which I rarely see in covering my usual singer/songwriter type gigs. Though the music seemed to drag a bit in places, the production quality was dazzling from beginning to end, and I could see that frontman Anthony Gonzalez must have intended this as part of his overall Gesamtkunstwerk, though it seems funny to use that Wagnerian operatic reference in a review of modern electronic music.

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M83 opened with ‘Reunion’, a familiar track from their 2011 breakout album ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’, before diving headlong into ‘Do It, Try It’, from their newly released album ‘Junk’. I was rather proud of myself for recognising both songs without prompting, but from that point I was a bit lost, as Gonzalez chose to play more older material than I would have expected. Keyboardist Kaila Sinclair, who is new to the M83 lineup, had ample opportunity to showcase her silky vocals on both the older tracks and the more recent releases, and Gonzalez handed the lead off to female vocalist Mai Lan on new album tracks ‘Laser Gun’ and ‘Go!’, the latter of which had a rather unexpectedly ’80s dance pop vibe. Naturally, Gonzalez held back the band’s massive radio hit ‘Midnight City’ until late in the set proper; though it prompted an outburst of manic energy from the crowd, the audience’s attention appeared to wander once they’d heard it and the jubilant mood dissipated quickly thereafter.

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I thought the headline set seemed rather short when Gonzalez and his crew signed off, but it turned out that they had a extended 5-song encore planned, including a lengthy version of the groovy new track ‘Walkaway Blues’, which featured vocals by guitarist Jordan Lawlor. Many of the casual punters in the back of the theater took this opportunity to slip out (it was a Tuesday night, after all!), but the diehard M83 fans stayed to the very end, and they were graciously rewarded with spectacular performances of old favourites ‘Couleurs’ and ‘Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun’.

M83 and YACHT will be on tour in North America through the end of April. M83 have a busy spring and summer schedule planned, with appearances at Coachella and Glastonbury on the docket. You can find YACHT’s upcoming live dates here and M83’s long list of live dates right here.

TGTF’s previous coverage of YACHT, including their recent appearance at SXSW 2016, is back this way. Our coverage of M83 is collected in one convenient spot right back here.

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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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