PHOENIX — M83, an electronic group from France named after the galaxy Messier 83, performed at The Van Buren with experimental artist Rachika Nayar opening the show in a line-up consisting of only the two acts. The night of focus here is April 10, which was the original tour launch date scheduled in Phoenix and became the second night after it sold out, resulting in an add-on of April 9.
Opener Rachika Nayar, a composer and producer from Brooklyn, New York, set an ambiance that helped prime the audience for the vibes of M83. With the stillness of the crowd that portrayed an uncertainty of how to behave during this sensory electronic set, and a respectful patience, the performance came across almost like a pre-show DJ set.
Nayar has a muted stage presence, and she remained stationed at her equipment throughout the set, not speaking until the end when she expressed gratitude in an unassuming tone and wished a friend in the audience a happy birthday.
Rachika Nayar has released two albums: Out Hands Against the Dusk and Heaven Come Crashing — both featuring heavily mutated and digitally-processed guitar, along with the fragments EP featuring raw guitar. All 3 of these records are available as MP3 downloads and/or as vinyls to add to your prized collection.
Touring in support of Fantasy, which was released last month, M83 opened with the deeply relaxing and ethereal “Water Deep,” continuing with the chill vibes emanated by Nayar, unlike many other acts that will typically burst onto a performance as they start their set.
Fronted by 43-year-old Anthony Gonzalez, M83 has existed for about 24 years. Gonzalez is not a glamorous showman, yet his prowess shines for him. More than just a singer, he is a renaissance man responsible for lead vox, guitar, synths, keys, bass, percussion, mixing, arranging, and producing.
M83 transitioned to a danceable energy with the upbeat title-track from Fantasy, which was the 8th song in a setlist of 20 (including the encore). “Fantasy” hearkens back to the primary energy of the Junk album — a personal favorite that I have kept on heavy rotation after being lucky enough to experience it live on their April 13, 2016 tour stop at Comerica Theatre (which, while I knew of M83 before that point, was what impacted me so much as to cement me as a fan).
It was during “Fantasy” that Joe Berry stepped away from the synthesizers and pleased the crowd with the EWI. The stage lights brightened and bathed the band in many more colors, and it was especially in that moment that the slow-roll of the night proved worth the wait. Though I may be biased as a sax player myself, I am confident in my opinion that anyone would be in agreement that the show really gets ripping once Berry starts wailing on the saxophone.
Kaela Sinclair commands attention as the siren of a soprano vocal that is a signature and integral part of M83’s sound. You can also catch her sultry, haunting, and powerful vocals outside of M83 as a solo artist.
The band’s show ebbs and flows from there, following “Fantasy” with “Laura”, which channels the 80s prom night air that much of M83’s music exudes. Afterward, they brought some of their highest energy with “Don’t Save Us From the Flames.” “Noise” from 2003 release Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts served as a segue to “Wait” from Hurry Up We’re Dreaming (2011). Delightfully, “Solitude” from Junk was next, and the bopping “Sunny Boy” from Fantasy after that.
The tracks that go heavier on the guitars for a dramatic electronic-meets-rock sound are absolutely soul igniting. The live band is rounded out with Julien Aoufi on drums, the skills of guitarist Théophile Antolinos, and bass rhythms from Clément Libes. These 3 musicians were shrouded in smoke and lights in the background as the front of the stage was filled with the synths and keyboards, along with Gozales, Sinclair, and Berry.
It comes as no surprise that the crowd’s energy climaxed during the encore as the group launched into the highly recognizable “Midnight City”, which has received heavy radio play since its release in 2011. If you are a regular listener of ALT AZ 93.3, you’ve heard it a lifetime’s worth. One can only long for more of M83’s superior tracks to hit the mainstream to give respite from the overabundance of formulaic, forgettable, and overplayed tracks of other artists that pervade popular music today.
This night of music was nourishing to the spirit with a perfect blend of chill time and outright fun, which was quite apparent by the invigorated energy that was effortlessly perceptible from the crowd leaving the venue following “Outro.”
See the full M83 setlist from April 10, 2023 at The Van Buren here:
Burning Hot Events highly recommends catching this tour. There is ample opportunity to do so, as it has just started, and the band has dates scheduled all across North America up through May 16th. Check out the tour dates here:
Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega
M83 & Rachika Nayar – The Van Buren 4-10-23
Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
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