M83: Live at Mezzanine
M83 didn’t own the sky or much else that night…
Live Review: M83 & James Yuill- May 27, 2009 @ the Mezzanine in San Francisco
Over the last couple weeks, my boyfriend, who generally never showed much interest in the majority of the music I listen to, has started bringing my music with him to listen to while he drives around on the job. One of those albums happened to be M83's Before the Dawn Heels Us, which he later described in a text message to me as “mindhead music” that was “making him sleepy.”
Funny enough, that is precisely how I would sum up M83’s performance at Wednesday’s show at the Mezzanine in San Francisco. The last, and only, time I saw French electronic then-duo M83 was actually at the Mezzanine, back in 2003 (or maybe it was 2004) following the release of Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts. More on that part of the show later, though, as James Yuill’s stellar opening performance is definitely deserving of mention. The SF show was Yuill’s last stop on his five show support-tour with M83, which was very lucky for us San Francisco folks who arrived early enough to catch his surprisingly loud performance.
Yuill, a nerdy-looking, skinny Brit, whom my friend likened to Ricky Gervais’ comedy partner, Stephen Merchant, knew how to elevate his beautiful bedroom electro-acoustic songs for a club type setting. He turned the songs from his “latest” album (which is actually a re-release from 2007 then on Moshi Moshi, now on Nettwerk), Turning Down Water For Air, into some club-bangers, handling the guitar, vocals and knob-twiddling all by himself—while still managing to have great stage presence. It’s amazing what one man can accomplish seemingly effortlessly, while the previous night Passion Pit’s five-man, too-many synthesizers filled show failed to do, at all. That said, even getting to the venue a song or two into his set, I still managed to hear all my favorite Yuill tracks, “No Surprise,” “Left-Handed Girl,” “No Pins Allowed,” and “This Sweet Love,” my favorite track, which when Yuill asked if anyone knew, I was the only dork to yell out, “I DO!!!!!”
*Sigh* Needless to say after his performance my crush on him grew, and I thought I would definitely be in for a good night of music. Well, after grabbing a beer and standing through Live 105 dj Aaron Axelson’s rather sleepy set of music, the lights dimmed and the crowd cheered and then stood quietly with their arms folded. That is, everyone except for the one spastic tweeker dancer that no matter where you stand at a concert, “that guy” always seems to find you and stand right next to you.
Well, after the first three songs (or maybe it was just one long song), I WISHED I was tweeking, because M83’s Anthony Gonzalez slow start to the evening came across masturbatory, which left 80% of the crowd zoning out to the pretentious videos being displayed to accompany the ethereal set. Eventually after about 15 to 20 minutes of stuff from Gonzalez’ Digital Shades album, but what felt more like an eternity, the rest of the live band (Loic Maurin on drums and Morgan Kibby on guitars and vocals) joined Gonzalez onstage for the first real burst of energy, on “Graveyard Girl,” one of the standout tracks from the latest album, Saturdays = Youth. On a sidenote—why was Maurin playing drums in what looked like an aquarium?
Other high points from their set included “Run Into Flowers,” “Kim and Jessie,” and the definite best live cut of the night, “We Own the Sky,” which at one point had me rethinking my negative opinion of the show. Unfortunately, those songs were squeezed together in the mid-point of the set, while the band continued on with more heady music causing induced zombie-fication, while the accompanying videos were completely distracting and unnecessary. I really wanted to enjoy and appreciate M83 live, partly because I do really enjoy their albums, and mostly because I was hoping to be wrong about how boring I thought they were the last time I saw them play live.
As the band was performing their encore song, “Couleurs,” I was over at Mystic Pizza enjoying a slice of pesto. I knew my live affair with M83 was over as they prepared for their encore; why stick around for the bitter ending? I will just have to opt for enjoying their albums from the comfort of my own home from now on, but I certainly do hope to be seeing Mr. Yuill again. *Wink* *Wink*
(I also want to recommend checking out Yuill’s blog: http://jamesyuill.wordpress.com/, for his own tour updates, which includes videos.)
- Nicole Coxe