Live Review

M83, Somerset House, London

It’s difficult not to marvel at the sheer enthusiasm of this band.

Somerset House has returned with its annual summer series – a programme of open-air music events that the venue’s website states go ahead ‘come rain or shine’. Thankfully, Ye Olde British Weather shows mercy on this particular Monday evening and the air is both warm and buzzing with excitement for French shoegazers M83.

Mainstream success has been a long time coming for this band, with ‘Midnight City’ having propelled them into the upper realms of the UK chart and the public’s consciousness. It’s refreshing to see that they haven’t let the song define them, with the track springing up in the middle of tonight’s set, although it does get the biggest crowd response. The upbeat numbers are where M83 really excel, with ‘Reunion’ allowing the percussion to take the lead and delivering remarkable amounts of energy, both in terms of the volume and the band’s enthusiasm; the guitarist looks like he’s going to dive into the crowd at any moment!

The wonderfully chaotic ‘Teen Angst’ is a personal highlight, with green and purple lights dowsing the stage’s backdrop and the veneer of Somerset House to provide both an eerie and euphoric feel. The eeriness continues through the beautiful ‘Wait’, with its caws and wails evoking images of sailors lost at sea and mermaids tempting them towards jagged rocks, to their deaths; it’s all very dark and thought-provoking. However, Somerset House, despite its magnificent appearance, isn’t really the right venue to fully appreciate M83’s sound. Whilst those at the barrier end of the crowd appear to be fully immersed in the music, those further back aren’t as engaged and there are points in tonight’s show where there seem to be as many people engaged in conversation as are watching the band. If this were taking place in a venue with a roof, this would be a very different story, as shoegaze, no matter how good, can only really take off in an enclosed setting.

Despite this, it’s difficult not to marvel at the sheer enthusiasm of this band, with the encore one of the most exuberant 10 minutes of showmanship I’ve ever seen. Pure instrumentalism allows M83 to really let loose on the performance side of proceedings, with the ferocious drumming on ‘A Guitar & A Heart’ – set to a backdrop of smog and red lasers – making for pretty intense viewing. Overall, a great show from the band, but the grandiose venue just doesn’t provide the atmosphere needed to truly engage with the music.

Tags: M83, Features

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