M83 played Roadrunner – 4/23

French cinematic synthpop wizard Anthony Gonzalez brought his M83 project back to Boston Sunday night at Roadrunner.


It’s been over a decade now since M83’s big moment, when double album Hurry Up We’re Dreaming and its towering lead single “Midnight City” broke the band through from cult favorites to genuine indie stardom. As a college freshman with a music blog and a radio show at the time, M83 were – naturally – everywhere for me circa 2011. I saw them headline a packed House of Blues on that tour (which they did twice less than six months apart) and soundtracked many a day and night with Hurry Up‘s soaring, shimmering tones. I even bought a limited Urban Outfitters edition pressing of the record, which is one of the most distinctively early 2010s actions I can conceptualize. Formative memories and all that.

When mastermind Anthony Gonzalez returned five years later, sans vocalist/keyboardist Morgan Kibby and with polarizing new record Junk, things felt different. I was in a weird post-college transitional life phase and so, perhaps, was M83. They played the waterside Pavilion that summer of 2016, sandwiched between 311 and Lynyrd Skynyrd on the calendar and sounding great but undeniably feeling a touch out of place in the Seaport. Seven years on, a sellout Sunday night crowd at Allston’s Roadrunner felt much more like home for a project settling comfortably into its veteran status.

March’s Fantasy, Gonzalez’s first LP since Junk, bears few surprises but delivers that sweeping trademark M83 sound in spades. At its best, Gonzalez’s fusion of synthpop, shoegaze, ambient texture and post-rock dynamics wraps you up and carries you skyward, and there were plenty of those moments across a 100-minute set on Sunday that leaned heavily on the new record. Spread across a technicolor stage, drenched in fog and presided over by a slightly nightmarish animated visage (or just a pair of eyes), Gonzalez led a five-piece band on a mostly-chronological trip through 10 of Fantasy‘s 13 tracks, punctuated by some glances toward the past. Especially amidst cuts from early records Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and Before the Dawn Heals Us, those new songs sounded right at home in the repertoire; majestic, vibrant and transportive.

Setlists up to this point in the North American run of shows had remained pretty static, but Roadrunner was also treated to a few tour debuts toward the end of the night (the anthemic “We Own the Sky” and rare appearances of Dawn’s “Teen Angst” and “*”). “Midnight City” served as the cornerstone of the evening’s encore, and while it’s a song that Gonzalez could ostensibly be sick of at this point, he and the band still played the hell out of it (sax solo included, courtesy of multi-talented touring member Joe Berry). With that, Hurry Up bonus track “Mirror” and, appropriately, “Outro,” Gonzalez and company bid farewell with a bow. The show had been a satisfying fusion of the old and the new, and a comforting indication that even if its appearances remain scattered a half-decade apart, M83 endures.

See photos from the night below, including a lovely modular synth set (with Kraftwerk cover!) from opener Jeremiah Chiu.