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French electronics at Lollapalooza Friday: Madeon, M83

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

Perry's stage showcases a lot of rising stars, such is the nature of the fast-paced EDM world. Friday afternoon's case in point: Madeon, aka French dubstep DJ Hugo Leclercq, who introduced himself two years ago with six little words: "Here are 39 songs I like." That opening to his very viral video for "Pop Culture," a deft three-and-a-half-minute mash-up of those songs, set him on the path to Perry's stage, where he put on one of the day's more animated performances.

The drag of it, though, was that -- despite the big, new Perry's stage being flanked by two enormous video screens and framed by LED strips above and below -- no camera focused on the 18-year-old DJ's movements, his unique instrument (the Novation Launchpad) or, most tragically, his jazz hands. The screens at Perry's just flash a bunch of pseudo-trippy screen-saver nonsense, thus wasting the effort of building this large stage with its elevated DJ platform in order to showcase the mixmasters as real performers. Half the joy of watching "Pop Culture" on YouTube is that the footage is static on Leclercq's hands as he punches out all those melodies and beats. At least his jumping around -- and, seriously, the jazz hands were cracking me up -- gave those of us in the shade something to watch.

Another largely electronic act, M83 -- and fellow Frenchfolks -- crafted their cinescope sounds on the Sony main stage Friday evening. Bathed in and sometimes pierced by a flashy light show, the band worked through an hourlong set (almost pushing past their time limit up against the night's closer, the Black Keys) that swelled and swirled, nearly every song building with cymbal-crashing crescendo toward a big finish. Over and over.

The film-score quality of M83's elegant disco is well-raved about -- and will be applied to an actual film soon, as M83 has been picked to score an upcoming sci-fi flick starring Tom Cruise -- and it was easy for me to select their recent hit, "Midnight City," from their latest album (the double-CD "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming") as last year's finest single. Keyboardist Morgan Kibby is an earthy, shamanistic foil to Anthony Gonzalez' earnest guitar rubbing and button jabbing. The band's Friday set strove to pump up the beat occasionally, particularly with other members joining in on drum kits during the thumping "Reunion," but it never got quite fast or furious enough. Like the spiral galaxy the band is named after, their set shone brightly but spun for a long time before burning out. Still, "Midnight City" closes with something you don't hear much at Lollaplooza, in this or any other decade. As the man behind me said, thankfully quieting his chatty friends at the song's climax, "Um, I'm sorry. Are we hearing a freaking saxophone solo?!"


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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on August 3, 2012 11:47 PM.

Friday @ Lollapalooza: Haley Reinhart (video) was the previous entry in this blog.

Friday @ Perry's: Nero, Bassnectar is the next entry in this blog.

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