Remember that Joshua Allen bit about the characteristics of the perfect pop song? I first brought it up back in February and then trotted it out again just last week. One of the ways Allen thinks that artists make unnecessarily bloated songs is by giving “the saxophone guy a real moment to shine.” Clearly that was written before Allen heard “Midnight City”, because the extended sax jam that takes up the last minute or so of the song is what really ties the whole tune together and closes it out. The sax bit isn’t the only reason “Midnight City” was one of my top two or three songs of 2011, but it’s certainly a big part of it.
If anything, the sax man (James King, from Fitz and the Tantrums!) might get a little bit of a short shrift on the album. I feel like the sax is a little lower in the mix and almost gets overpowered by everything else that’s going on in the song. M83’s live show, on the other hand, is a whole different story, as the sax guy gets to take center stage and go nuts in an impressive display of saxmanship.
Watch here as the sax man casually saunters onstage for the first time all night in the last song of M83’s main set and just wails away:
The video is a bit shaky but the audio is good. Listen for the roar of the crowd when the saxaphone kicks in. It’s the highlight of a great song. I can say from experience that it’s even more impressive in person, as I was at the show in question just last night. (Actually, M83 did two shows last night. I was at the early show, but the video is apparently from the late show… close enough!) Basically, it’s important enough to the show that the sax player tours with the band almost exclusively for that 90 seconds or so of the show. That’s clutch. And a great contribution to a show that was very, very good with lots of energy and plenty of memorable moments.
Anyway, to do a little not-so-subtle foreshadowing, the saxaphone made a huge comeback and was all over the music landscape in 2011. “Midnight City” is one of the most prominent examples, but I think we’ll see more 2011 saxaphone bits in the near future.