M83 Baptizes New Record ‘Fantasy’ in an Ocean of Sound: Concert Review

“Beyond adventure!” shouted M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez and keyboard player Kaela Sinclair, minutes into their first of two NYC shows at Terminal 5 on April 25. This mission statement is repeated several times in the debut single “Oceans Niagara” from their recently released ninth studio album, “Fantasy.” The sprawling record is the backbone of this tour, with the band running through 10 of the tracks during the evening, including a five-song stretch at the beginning as bold in tone and attack as anything in their deep catalogue.

Even casual fans were rapt with attention as the band’s live sound is a roaring juxtaposition to its often dreamy studio fare. Lead singer and guitarist Gonzalez, the only permeant member of the group, is joined by Sinclair, multi-instrumentalist Joe Berry, guitarist Théophile Antolinos, drummer Julien Aoufi and bassist Clément Libes on this trek, cranking their amps up so loud that synths rained over the crowd, with fans’ bellies shaking from the bass. The group’s greatest live trick is bashing out huge chords in many of their songs’ outros, washing the audience in a deafening euphoria as the rhythm section stomped out a driving pulse.

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Performed live, “Fantasy” could be an alternate-history M83 greatest hits compilation, as it touches on the band’s key sounds: the euphoric head-banging of “Dismemberment Bureau,” the epic, soundtrack-ready “Sunny Boy Part 2” and the dark disco hook of the title track. Gonzalez clearly structured the show to flow around the album, shying away from many of their hits in order to blend in thematically appropriate deeper cuts like “Run Into Flowers” and “Solitude.” Sure, they trotted out their best-known song — the infections “Midnight City,” sounding just as alive as when it debuted 12 years ago — but it was part of a three-song encore from their best-known album, 2011’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.”

Given that the core setlist was focused on exploration of songs both lesser-known and brand new, M83’s passionate, overwhelming noise was successful in creating excitement around the fresh material. Far from running to grab another beer during the new stuff, the locked-in crowd left chattering about how they can’t wait to stream and revisit “Fantasy,” proving the adventure paid off.

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