Not only was M83’s night in Copenhagen’s Vega sold out at the end of 2011 but in the weeks coming up to the concert there was a scramble from those without tickets to get hold of them, and chat amongst those who did of how awesome it was going to be. Yep – the weight of expectation was heavy in the air so in sober moments it seemed that this would never live up to our own self-generated hype.
Porcelain Raft warmed things up – one man and a guitar and a bank of electronics, he was never going to steal the limelight from the main act but managed to pull off enough stage presence and delivery to keep a sizeable amount of people away from the bar and in front of the stage in this most beautifully appointed, wooden paneled venue. Incredible sound and those easy accessible bars making it easily the best place in Copenhagen to see a concert and with a Thursday night sold-out crowd on hand, you won’t have a better canvas to work with.
Without much ado the houselights go off and out of the mist comes a masked figure simply raising hands up and down again and with that the band appear while vertical strips of neon light up the stage. We’re straight into ‘Intro’, the most perfect opener from the new album, with vocalist Morgan Kibby raising the game as soon as she opens her mouth. Her epic voice is perhaps the greatest instrument on stage and there are lots of instruments, plus a guy tucked in at the back with what looks like four laptops in an array, probably dishing out samples.
As we move through the opening tracks such as ‘Teen Angst’ it’s something off-stage that takes our attention. The Danish crowd are almost entirely standing still, the building tunes not quite reaching their feet yet. Copenhagen always seemed a tough nut to crack regarding a crowd’s physical display of joy and this makes us feeling a little like the only drunk at the party.
Back on stage M83 cannot be faulted, Anthony Gonzales successfully marrying the singing/frontman part with the orchestra leader part from behind his bank of electronics and guitars. The sound is pristine, and even the drummer is infectious to look at, not to mention Kibby’s big presence across from Gonzalez on the stage – singing, playing a mean piano and twirling her hair up into knots all, seemingly, at the same time. There’s a lot of motion and while you’re watching Gonzales do one thing you might miss the bassist climbing on top of the drum kit. As two young dancing girls squeeze through the crowd there seems to be a glimmer of hope coming from the waking audience and there’s a tipping point when the “I woke up stronger than ever” build-up to ‘Steve McQueen’ breaks and some hands are in the air as well as lots of smiling nods between friends.
Ok, that was good. ‘Wait’ takes the pace down and a guy appears beside us with three beers in hand unable to find his friends. In the relaxing moments everyone helps him locate them, we get a beer too and settle back in as the pace comes up again. You definitely get the feeling that the band have thought of the playlist much like they think of a song, with the right peaks and troughs. While we’re mulling this over the notes we’ve been waiting keenly to hear – the Wa-wo-wo-wa… of ‘Midnight City’ drops and yes. Yes. Sometimes there’s a feeling that there’s not enough power in some of the earlier musical parts but it’s all part of the plan of building each track up live and making the final part the biggest and loudest climax.
After 13 tracks and just 45 minutes, M83 leave the stage but quickly reappear to send us home. Saturdays = Youth’s ‘Skin of the Night’ is beautiful in its slow burning, Miami Vice neon feel. By the time ‘Couleurs’ arrives you could light a city from the electricity in the air. The track is reworked to lift and pump up a crowd in a dancing finale and it sure is working. M83 did it – every foot is dancing. Everyone’s beaming and out of the last dip of the night comes Gonzales to the fore first shouting “Copenhagen”. Shouting it again. Then screaming it, and the band drop back in with everything in the bag, the stage bursts white, and every single fucking hand shoots in the air and we jump for the roof in unison, from front of stage to the back of the bar.
In six years of gigs we’ve seen in Vega only Jonsi also reached these elusive, dizzy heights of taking one of the best venues we’ve ever been in to an all inclusive moment of absolute joy. This is why we go to gigs – that non-digital, undownloadable, unique moment where everything is amazing and everyone is happy.
Photos by Jakob Bekker-Hansen