On M83’s Fall tour they came to Lincoln Hall in Chicago. With them came supporting band, Active Child. You can check out our review after the break!
It is always a special occasion when you can catch a band at a small venue before they become huge, but on a freezing cold night in Chicago, the packed house at Lincoln Hall got to do just that. On what is sure to be their last headlining tour of smaller venues, M83 brought their unique amalgamation of pop, rock, shoe gaze and dance music. Openers Active Child also played an incredible set. With people camped out in the street trying to get tickets to either of the sold out shows, one could not help but feel that they were on the inside of something special.
While the bands are somewhat different stylistically, the one thing that they do have in common is the grandiosity of the music. The soundscape is so varied, loud and just plain big. At any time, a song can go from quiet to loud to full blown madness.
Active Child is the performing name of Pat Grossi, from Los Angeles. His beautiful voice and aching falsetto is reminiscent of Jónsi from Sigur Rós or Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. The full-length debut, You Are All I See, is not to be missed. Often times openers are just ignored, but the incredible complexity and unique sound of Active Child gave the crowd something to pay attention to.
Along with a drummer and multi instrumentalist, Grossi and his band managed to get drums, keyboards, a guitar, bass and even a harp in to the mix.
As opener Gogong (Intro) led in to High Priestess, the crowd was transfixed on Grossi’s soaring falsetto. The shimmering keys and drums progressing from minimalist to a tribal sound brought out the immediacy of the song. Shield & Sword featured a stuttering electro beat paired with live drumming, with more subdued vocals.
Playing House featured R&B styled vocals along with a great beat and beautiful harp playing by Grossi. When Your Love Is Safe starts off sounding like an 80’s song before it’s beautiful chorus, drum rolls, rattling snares and key break had everyone in the crowd nodding along. Upon conclusion, it was the loudest applause for any of the songs played.
Set closer Johnny Belinda may well have been the best song of the night. You can hear the longing in Grossi’s voice as he sings, “Wish that I could give it all, wish that I could change enough, wish that I was strong enough, to be yours.” The crowd burst in to applause as the set ended. The great performance surely earned Active Child some new fans.
After a very quick set change, someone dressed as an alien came out to center stage as the lights went down. While a creepy sounding instrumental played, he stood still except for his arms, which were slowly raised overhead. As they reached their peak and the song ended M83 made their way to the stage that featured a starry sky background that changed colors and standing lights that pulsated with the music and also changed colors.
From the opening notes of Intro through the encore Couleurs, M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez had the audience eating from his hand. Touring behind the recently released double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, there were numerous links between the music and the sky. Between the star lit background, the epic sound, the band name (M83 is a reference to a spiral galaxy), the feeling of flying through the atmosphere was in the air
As soon as the opening keys of Intro were played the crowd was locked in on the band. Once Gonzalez started singing the crowd went nuts. Breaking in to Teen Angst, from Before The Dawn Heals Us, the crowd took it up another notch. The song started with the band playing guitar, bass, drums and keys, and ended with a sequencer, 2 different keyboards and a drum machine. The contrasting whispers of Gonzalez and the soaring female vocals were gorgeous.
The crowd cheered loudly again for Kim and Jessie, which was straight forward pop, and was more accessible for newer fans. It also marked the third different album that a song was played from. As a single from the excellent Saturdays = Youth. On We Own The Sky, the aerial theme continues. This time, it is Gonzalez’s soaring, ethereal vocals that draw the listener in before a hip-hop beat is unleashed. During the instrumental break in the song, Gonzalez really let loose and started dancing.
After all the theatrics of the previous songs, the gently plucked guitar and breathy, almost whispered vocals of Wait were a much-needed break. The biggest buildup in the song was quieter than almost any other quiet point during the set. Naturally, this was followed up by the maniacal, pounding drums of This Bright Flash. Set closer A Guitar and A Heart featured heavily distorted keys and a sinister beat. The crowd was dancing like crazy and when Gonzalez made his way to the front of the stage the crowd went nuts and those in the front reached towards him. Before you knew it, the set was over and the band was off the stage.
After a very quick break, the band reemerged for the encore. As the band started in, the multi instrumentalist climbed atop the bass drum and started clapping over his head. The crowd picked up the cue, joined in and kicked it up a notch. Couleurs spiraled to a borderline out of control state and the crowd pulsated with an energy rarely seen at shows. As the band left the stage the crowd was cheering for more, but the brief hour-long set still provided a glimpse of a band headed towards the heavens.
Information about the review…
Tour: M83 Fall Tour feat. Active Child
Bands: M83 and Active Child
Date: November 17, 2011
Venue: Lincoln Hall in Chicago, IL