M83 Play Disney Concert Hall with Symphony


French electro-poppers M83 have always gone for outsized drama with their electronic sound. That’s one reason the band’s mastermind, Anthony Gonzalez, agreed to share the stage Friday night with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the city’s Frank Gehry-designed cathedral of classical music, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Unfortunately, the event turned out to be much less than the sum of its musicians.

The evening began when Gonzalez took the stage alone. He created moody flourishes that suggested he was hitting chimes with a mallet, instead of buttons on a computer keyboard. After three instrumental pieces, he was gone.

The empty chairs that surrounded his opening performance then filled with members of the Philharmonic. Guest conductor Julian Kuerti of the Boston Symphony Orchestra bowed, and proceeded to guide his musicians through Estonian composer Arvo Part’s Fratre, a ten-minute piece with somber percussion and atonal strings that soundly upstaged Gonzalez’s mechanical tinkering.

After a brief intermission, the orchestra returned without Gonzalez and began the three movements of Claude Debussy’s La Mer. At this point M83 fans, a dedicated bunch accustomed to the rigorous approach of M83’s art, were confused by the lack of collaborationthe bill advertised. Another 23 minutes passed.

Then an all-female choir was ushered in, a few more French horns and percussionists were added, and Gonzalez walked out to polite applause and stationed himself behind his clutter of laptops, wires, and lights.

Finally, the collaboration had begun.

The ensemble played “Moon Child,” from 2005’s Before the Dawn Heals Us. It featured rock drumming and samples of female voices, which battled the choir and orchestra for primacy and didn’t mesh. Other songs fared better, including “In the Cold I’m Standing” (also from Before the Dawn Heals Us); the song’s opens spaces were nicely filled with horn and string arrangements.

But as the L.A. crowd began to wander out of the Hall during set-closer “The Highest Journey” (off 2007’s Digital Shades, Vol. 1), the evening felt like it had lasted too long, while providing too little.

Perhaps it was because the true collaboration was left for only the final 30 minutes of the two-hour performance. Or maybe it was because the bill’s overseriousness had stifled the few breaths of fun that had emerged during performances of the light pop from M83’s SPIN-approved 2008 album Saturdays = Youth.

Either way, the collaboration turned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famous dictum on its head: With Gonzales and the L.A. Philharmonic, more was decidedly less.

More photos after the jump!

M83 / Photo by Beth Stirnaman

M83 with the L.A. Philharmonic / Photo by Beth Stirnaman (Click to enlarge)

M83 / Photo by Beth Stirnaman

L.A. Philharmonic / Photo by Beth Stirnaman

M83 with the L.A. Philharmonic / Photo by Beth Stirnaman

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