Concert Reviews

M83's Triumphant Pop Music Tugged at Nostalgic Heartstrings

M83 is undoubtedly a band of its times, which, of course, means it takes as much from the past as it does from the future. At Red Rocks Tuesday, the band took full advantage of its brilliant surroundings and presented its luminous, spacious and triumphant music the way it was intended to be heard – and seen.

Racks of LEDs behind the band looked straight out of an '80s new-wave or synth-pop music video. Halfway through the set, points of light that floated in the air as if in a game of Asteroids emerged and eventually gave way to other shapes, all reminiscent of graphics in late-’70s and early-’80s video games like Battlezone, Tempest and Tron. It felt like an EDM show crossed with a New Order concert.

Sustaining the expansive feel of M83's music for an entire show could have worn thin, but leader Anthony Gonzalez made sure it didn't. Gonzalez and his tribe played with the determined enthusiasm we've come to expect from M83. New keyboardist and vocalist Kaela Sinclair, who stepped into the role that Morgan Kibby so ably occupied in the band as a talented musician and versatile singer, nailed the Zola Jesus vocals on “Intro.”

Gonzalez is clearly nostalgic for a time when TV shows, movies and even music weren't trying to fit in. But as much as he and his collaborators have a gift for evoking the past, their music is very much about celebrating life and what lies ahead. Sure, it was just a band on stage, but as with any truly great band, the show and the music made for a collective experience. M83 helped us cherish parts of life we've left behind but also helped us look forward to the bright future. 
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.