M83 at the Deaf Institute – 7 May

2017 May 10
by Paul


The Deaf Institute was apparently sold out for M83’s gig, but thankfully there was at least enough room to breathe. The initial sparseness of the crowd could have been put down to the choice of support. Ulrich Schnauss is a well-respected musician, well-known in the genre of ambient techno and electronica. However, as good as his music is, there is something lacking in the live performance – when you’re stood in a busy room jostling to get a view of a man ostensibly just sat at a laptop, occasionally playing keys or making adjustments, you’re glad of the distraction of random projected video at the back of the stage.

That isn’t to say Schnauss’ performance is boring by any means – the music he played was exhilerating, pounding, visceral stuff. Heads were bobbing and the gathered crowd seemed to lap it up. As perfect a warm-up as he was, the perceived lack of live instruments was set to be balanced by the oncoming set from M83. With this in mind the room filled up some more, with the excited crowd hoping for a good position – whether to see the band or to pull some shapes on the dancefloor.

Some technical problems delayed the band’s appearance by a few minutes, with the Deaf Institute’s close quarters causing a couple of false cheers as the band tentatively came onstage to remedy the problems.

These were sorted soon enough though, and the patient crowd were treated to a stunning performance, utilizing the wide range of musical styles which M83 dabble in. With the drums set up behind a vast perspex screen, the sound was actually reproduced beautifully, along with quite a lot of deft use of electronic drum pads, not needing to rely on programmed drums. At the front of the stage, duelling guitar and synths were both fed through laptops, pedals and a rather splendid-looking device, which looked something like a cross between a modified Alienware PC and something out of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. Sounded like it too. This was all topped off with the delicate, breathy vocals which M83 have become known for.

The band’s performance had a great sense of pace throughout – at times slowing things down for dream-like sequences of synth-driven soaring, at others stepping up the pace and the volume until tribal, trance-inducing beats were bouncing off the walls. The crowd couldn’t help themselves, and melted into a sea of smiling, writhing figures. The band’s own enjoyment was also obvious, and with music that could potentially be somewhat programmed rather than played live, it is so refreshing to see it being created organically and with such passion.

Time was obviously scarce towards the end – possibly due to the technical delays – although this didn’t stop the band coming back for a post-curfew encore. The set could’ve been called short by another band’s standards, but M83 played for long enough to sate an excitable crowd in the mood for a dance.

Ultimately, as forthcoming tours and previous big-name support slots show, M83 have everything it takes to fill larger spaces than the Deaf Institute, but they suited the venue and the audience were thrilled to experience such a euphoric show at close quarters and in such resplendent surroundings.

Paul Capewell