7/21/16 – Blue Hills Bank Pavillion

The Blue Hills Bank Pavilion isn’t normally my favorite place to see a show, but there is something special about being there on a perfect summer evening. Last Thursday was one of those nights – the clear sky and sea breeze compensated for bolted-down seats and overpriced beer. M83 was in town as a part of their enormous 2016 tour and their first Boston show in several years.

Even though the group released their new album Junk this past April, the setlist drew heavily from the 2011 release Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Tracks from this sprawling double album have an epic, cinematic sound that is unparalleled by their other work. When accompanied by an impressive light show, the studio recordings translated impeccably to the stage. The lights and the music moved together as one, synchronized to provide concertgoers with an ethereal audiovisual experience. From the pounding drums of “Steve McQueen” to the uplifting strings in “Wait,” bandleader Anthony Gonzalez and his group commanded the attention of the audience.

Junk marks a stylistic change for the band, moving more towards 80s inspired danceable pop grooves. The distinction between styles mid-set was a bit jarring, but the group managed to keep the energy going all night. It was clear to see how this band has been able to dominate the festival circuit all summer. I can only imagine the dance parties that M83 brought to Bonnaroo or Coachella earlier this year – unfortunately the seating situation at the pavilion made it tough for the crowd to really get moving.

Stars lit the stage’s backdrop as the group launched into “We Own the Sky” from 2008’s Saturdays = Youth. It was great to hear some older tracks thrown in the mix, especially since the setlist only lightly represented this particular era of M83. The venue’s reverb-heavy acoustics made the vocals nearly impossible to decipher but it didn’t matter – the words blended in perfectly with the beautiful soundscapes created by the band’s array of synthesizers.

The band’s megahit “Midnight City” rounded out the set with its iconic saxophone solo marking the high point of the evening. It was not until after they walked offstage that I realized Gonzalez had barely addressed the audience all night. During the encore of “Couleurs” Gonzalez rallied the crowd, screaming “BOSTON!” into microphone – a warning to signify the final chance to dance.

Synthesizers and Strobe Lights: M83
Pros
  • Fantastic production value
  • Spot on instrumentals
Cons
  • Little to no crowd interaction
  • Poor venue acoustics
8Overall Score

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