M83 goes orchestral at the Hollywood Bowl
The French electronic group puts on a dazzling show with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
By Robert Spuhler
Special to MSN Music
LOS ANGELES - The enduring sight from M83's performance with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was not French multi-instrumentalist and producer Anthony Gonzalez in front of a sold-out Bowl, nor was it the fan-made videos that accompanied some of the songs. It was likely the “performance” of Zelly Boo Meldal-Johnsen, the precocious child whose monologue on “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” makes up the entirety of the song's lyrics.
Meldal-Johnsen danced around stage, running up to each band member and smiling brightly. That the song is possibly about the hallucinogenic properties of certain toad species mattered little, especially to an audience already saturated with the (legal and otherwise) drugs of its choice. There seemed to be nowhere else that young Zelly Boo wanted to be more than on that stage during those spontaneous moments.
On the first night of fall, Gonzalez did his best to remove the clichéd chill from the air, giving his brand of electronic music a warmth possibly thought unobtainable. With the help of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and a few guest collaborators, Gonzalez brought personality and a human touch to a style of music often thought of as cold.
Starting off with the appropriately-named “Intro,” M83 walked onto the massive stage at the Bowl with the power of the Bowl's orchestra behind him and fan-made videos playing on the screens. He appeared nervous when first addressing the audience, copping to being anxious to play such a venue (even with collaborator Joseph Trapanese conducting the orchestra for the evening). But by the time he and the band got down with a blazing rendition of “Reunion,” the second single from his career-defining album “Hurry Up, We're Dreaming,” he and his band seemed more than at home in front of nearly 18,000 fans.
It was easy to see the effects of those pre-show jitters, though; at times, there seemed to be too much going on, like M83 doubted his ability to hold the audience's attention. Backdrop projections changed, lights swirled and, most distractingly, videos played on the venue's big screens. This was especially apparent during what was otherwise the highlight of the evening, when Norwegian star Susanne Sundfør joined M83 on stage for a show-stopping performance of the title track from the soundtrack to “Oblivion.” Instead of fans in the cheap seats being able to watch the performance on the monitors, they were treated to a series of clips from the film which played like a trailer.
None of that was needed, though, and on most occasions M83 cut through the surrounding distractions thanks to the force of his music. Songs like “Steve McQueen” and “We Own the Sky” do not need help to keep the audience entertained, and the crowd's rapturous reaction to the first notes of “Midnight City,” M83's biggest hit to date, certainly spoke for itself.
The integration of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra into the evening's proceedings also provided an extra kick to M83's already expansive songs. Trapanese, who worked with Gonzalez on the soundtrack to “Oblivion” and with Daft Punk on the soundtrack for “Tron: Legacy,” relied heavily on the string section, but combined the classical with the current in a way that seemed organic, like the music had been written with violins in mind.
But while the Orchestra did its job nobly, it left the stage before the final song, as M83 and his cohorts ended the evening with “Couleurs,” the first single from his “Saturdays=Youth” album. The synth-heavy new-wave track did not need any help from outside sources to send the audience into the parking lots in a dancing frenzy.
New York-based duo Phantogram opened the evening with a set of electronic songs owing debts to acts like Massive Attack and Portishead. Lead singer Sarah Barthel's breathy vocals paired well with the setting sun and the bottles of wine clattering around the Bowl's aisles and unreleased songs like “Celebrating Nothing,” likely due out on the band's upcoming album, meshed well with favorites like “Mouthful of Diamonds” and “As Far as I Can See.”
We Own the Sky
Raconte-Moi Une Histoire
Skin of the Night
Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun
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