If there is anything M83 is good at — at least when listening to him (them) in my room — it’s encapsulating a feeling I know exists, that I know is tangible and real, but that I do not usually have access to unless I’m listening to them. A show at the Miami Beach Fillmore is the opposite of that preternatural experience: girls primping themselves in the bathroom looked angry (you look beautiful; why are you mad?); one girl I moved past in the crowd literally and painfully shoved me. “Just go,” she huffed. “Go.” (To be fair, she was definitely drunk. And so was I.)
I hung out with my friend Edwin — of Edau, his own graphic design company, and Om Nom Nom Cookies — and he and I were wriggling our way toward the front for the better part of opening act Sun Airway. Sun Airway opened with their single, “Close,” which meant they were singing “I tried to get close to you,” as we tried to get to the stage. Sun Airway, like M83, are cinematic, so the timing was very appropriate and the whole effect very pretty: their neon, angel-wing lighting was delicate enough to not remind me of a rave. But I got bored anyway. I’ve always liked Sun Airway — they are genuinely catchy and beautifully ethereal. So it’s hard to say if they got boring or if I just got bored.
M83, on the other hand, really was a spellbinding act: more a miraculous event than a live band. Boredom and shoving were no match for them, and when a figure dressed as the alien-creature from the cover of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (the little boy in the photograph has removed half the costume) appeared, something palpably cathartic happened in the audience. They opened with that album’s “Intro,” which sounds just as much like a call to heroic, outer-space battle without Zola Jesus. Throughout the show, I saw people who initially didn’t move begin to dance like the mystery Spirit had taken over their bodies. I saw tears. It was the first show of their tour, and even M83 seemed excited. (Note to self: Is it corny to enjoy stage lighting, when it’s composed of pixelated rainbow diamonds and color-changing stars? When it makes the entire band look like angels?)
M83 proved a gracious act, too. Regarding their last Miami show — the one that failed due to technical difficulties — frontman Anthony Gonzalez apologized, explaining, “We are super, super excited to be here. We played, like, two songs six months ago and it was a nightmare. We are just so happy to be here in a proper setting.” (They followed that statement with the almost-too-suitable “Reunion.”) Gonzalez wasn’t lying: the band drummed together, danced together during the moments they needed no instruments, and heralded each other’s greatness with subtle gestures. When a saxophonist came out for “Midnight City” — like the costumed figure, he seemed to emerge from lights and smoke — people screamed, and Gonzalez himself looked supremely pleased. As for that song itself, which served as one of the set’s last — pre-encore — the audience quite valiantly shrieked “city is my church,” and cheered for themselves afterward.
They ultimately ended with “Couleurs,” a nearly nine-minute long epic of a song that builds and builds with synth and never really quite releases. I forgot I was at the Fillmore, forgot I was on the planet — a good, high-energy, perfectly-timed, well-performed show can do something like that to you, but M83 is at this point deft when it comes to creating the euphoric feeling you get when you hear them at home. Their lead guitarist threw himself on the floor after “Couleurs.” I feel like that is what the rest of us probably wanted to do, too.