Bringing a ‘Fantasy’ to life

M83’s sold out ‘Fantasy Tour’ transfixes Aztec Theatre

Cesar Soto, Staff Writer

Making their long-awaited return to San Antonio after seven years, the French shoegaze band M83 sold out Aztec Theatre on Thursday, April 13, as part of their “Fantasy Tour.” With exceptional stage production and musicianship, the group made it one of the year’s most memorable shows thus far.

After dreamy composer and producer Rachika Nayar opened the show, M83 took the Aztec Theatre stage at 9 p.m. with much anticipation from the fans. Their set began with several tracks from the band’s latest record, “Fantasy,” released last month, with the live members opening with the instrumental track, “Water Deep.” 

Once Anthony Gonzalez, the main member and creator of M83’s music, appeared on stage, they led into “Oceans Niagara,” a song that does not feature many vocals from Gonzalez but was the perfect start to the ethereal experience the group would put on.

Though the crowd did not hear many words from Gonzalez throughout the night, he made sure to create wonderful moments for the fans in attendance, appreciating them for selling out the show.

“It’s super nice to see you again, San Antonio, it’s been a while,” Gonzalez said. “Thank you so much for coming. Let’s have a great night together.”

This experience started immediately with the multitude of visual elements placed around the stage. The space was adorned with all sorts of lighting fixtures, towers and smoke effects that allowed Gonzalez to move around the stage as if it was his own imaginative playground. Then, through long instrumental breaks, he would jam out with different band members and create delightful individual moments with them.

Each song on the setlist felt like an individual experience. At one point, there were combinations of synths, guitars, drums and even violins that blended with Gonzalez’s layered and reverbed vocals to create a unified and enchanting sound. Songs like “Earth to Sea” and “Us and the Rest” were examples of how all six instrumentalists were in sync, working together to bring Gonzalez’s vision to life.

Although it was terrific to hear the new songs from their latest record, the setlist felt too focused on this album. Gonzalez did, however, bring in old material from albums such as “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts” and their breakout album, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” which provided several highlights of the show.

One such highlight was “Run into Flowers,” where the instruments gradually grew louder and the pitch grew higher, reaching an epic crescendo. Another was “Wait,” the softest track of the show, both sonically and visually. Muted blue lights cast over the band as Gonzalez repeated a refrain of “No time,” passionately raising his fist in the air.

They also performed their definitive dreamlike song in “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea” during the show’s final stretch, leaving the crowd exhilarated as they briefly exited the stage.

Once the band returned for their encore after nonstop cheers, soon came the best moments of the entire night. They led right into “Midnight City,” their most recognizable song that had the entire crowd dancing with their hands raised high. The iconic saxophone solo in the song drew the loudest cheers of the night, leaving an absolutely breathtaking feeling. 

The energy in the room during “Mirror” was amazing, with the heavy rhythmic track making Aztec Theatre feel like an intense European rave. Gonzalez repeatedly shouted “San Antonio,” with each call being louder than the last, in which the crowd would cheer back every time. Once the beat dropped, he began jumping around and headbanging like an absolutely wild man.

“Outro” fittingly served as the band’s final song. The lyrics “Now and forever, I’ll be your king” felt incredibly euphoric as the awe-inspiring instruments took over the audience one last time. Ending the show with peaceful piano notes, the group came together midstage to take a bow in front of the loud San Antonio fans, transfixed by what they had experienced over the last hour and 40 minutes.

You can almost guarantee that whenever a band as talented as M83 comes through town, they will provide their fans with a great time through the power of their music alone. But providing fans with an experience – a fantastical one, at that – is a rare thing that only a band like M83 can do.