Last Night: M83 at House of Blues

M83, I Break Horses House of Blues May 17, 2012

It's slightly weird seeing a band knowing they've already booked another show in town later in the year. That weirdness is amplified when the second show is booked for a bigger venue.

That kind of booking move leads to questions.

Now, the questions surrounding M83 might not be as numerous or interesting as ones surrounding Drake, but they're worth thinking about. When did these guys get so big? Can they fill those bigger venues? Are they trying to capitalize on a bit of temporary success, or is this a band that's here to stay?

M83's live show on this tour can't answer those questions, but it can answer this one: Does their brand of indietronica connect with audiences in a live setting?

Yes. Yes it does.

The move from M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez's bedroom to sold-out shows is unexpected. Few bands break through on their sixth album, fewer when it's a double album release. Throw in their ambient leanings and love of instrumentals and you have the recipe for a show that could try the patience of a crowd who might only be there to hear their big single.

But the crowd was on board from the start.

The night started off with a short set from Swedish shoegaze act I Break Horses. Their strengths lie in solid percussion and broody atmospheres. They spent most of the set back lit, which when combined with their music could have made for a show disconnected from the audience. But by the time set closer "Winter Beats" ended, it was safe to say that the crowd was behind them.

Their set didn't drag and they left the audience wanting more, showing a lot of promise for a band that's only touring America for the first time.

M83 didn't start off with a bang, but with an alien. If you've ever seen the cover to the "Midnight City" single, you might be familiar with the character. With three-fingered hands and a long snout, he greeted the audience before exiting stage left and turning the show over to the main attraction.

While they don't lose the electronic roots of the music live, the band certainly does amp up the rock element of things. Although there are times where it's hard to know what's playing live and what's a backing track, the band isn't afraid to really tear into a track when it needs to.

Of particular note is multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lawlor. Asked to join the band after a successful YouTube audition, live the boy is a monster. Even on a song like "Sitting," where his involvement is limited to one drum stick and one electronic drum pad, he plays like he's on borrowed time, as if he's giving everything in the moment on the off chance he wakes up in the morning and it was all a dream.

Still, Rocks Off couldn't help but chuckle at some of the live instrument choices. Although different songs throughout the night used prerecorded drum loops, there were multiple times where Morgan Kibby picked up a tambourine for some live shaking. Even in 2012 some things are best done the old-fashioned way.

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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia