Finding their way from the heart of the indie-scene to edge of mainstream consciousness, Montreal’s Arcade Fire has done so with audible grace and singular quirkiness. When bands get to a certain level of popularity, the quality of their songs usually seems to suffer. Not so with the Arcade Fire; be it in each successive record or their live performance; the octet deliver an outstanding performance.
On this particular fall evening, the Arcade Fire took the stage; opening the door and stepping into the dark (so to speak). The stage lights at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium pulsed with a seemingly organic life of their own, giving way to the apropos “Ready to Start,” passionately sung by vocalist/guitarist Win Butler. This was followed up by the new album’s proto-art-punk anthem “Month of May.” Focusing the evening notably on their new release “Suburbs,” there was a good mix of tracks from each of their releases.
The multi-instrumental multi-talented members of the band, seemed to change instruments between every few songs, in a game of their own invention; first becoming clear, in the lead-in to “Neighborhood #2.” Some tunes utilized dual drummers, some a hurdy gurdy, and some a hammond organ - Let there never be a question of Arcade Fire’s
musicianship. With all eight members and the flurry of instruments on stage, it was difficult to limit one’s attention to any one performer; and more a night to let the music wash over you.
In advance of the show, I was curious how the Arcade Fire would adapt to performing larger and less-intimate venues. They maintained their intimate connection to the audience, with the use of a drive-in movie screen; projecting composite video-art mixed with live video of the band, along with a rhythmic lighting show; pouring from the stage, out into the venue.
Coming to center stage from one of her roles as dual drummer; Régine Chassagne dawned in her glittery dress, performed one of the night’s sumptuous vocal high-points, in the form of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”
At the beginning of one of the next songs, Win’s guitar stopped working. In a screw–it kind of way, he went and played the song on the hammond organ instead – proving that rolling with technical issues can be far more interesting than being a prima-donna, showing their passion for the songs, over the technically perfect set. As always, Win Butler came across as humble and appreciative, with many thanks for the audience’s support.
Moving towards the edge of the stage during “Neighborhood #1 Tunnels,” Win sang from the top of stage-monitors, before descending with orange-corded mic-in-hand, into the orchestra pit. As the band played their hearts out, Win’s interaction with the audience kept everyone’s blood moving with a sense of unpredictability - singing perched from the chair-tops and moving well into the audience, up the isles.
To be fair, a couple tracks didn’t resonate quite as well as others: “Deep Blue” & “We Used to Wait,” as examples just didn’t feel like they held up against the other material. These were the few exception though. Standout amazing performances for the night were many. A few more would include the cooing lullaby-like “Rococo,” “Intervention,” & the breathtaking anthem-like “Neighborhood #3 Power Out.”
Later in the show, Front-man Win Butler brought up the devastation from the recent earthquake in Haiti, and what the band was doing help out. He mentioned that the Arcade Fire would be donating one dollar per ticket towards relief and to rebuild through www.kanpe.org. Considering the two nights in LA drew in the range of 6000 people per night (saleable tickets), the band donated $12k to Haitian relief fund, from those performances. It’s good to see people in the spotlight putting their money to good use. (www.kanpe.org)
Winding towards the end of the evening; the last song before their encore was “Rebellion Lies,” which continued on after the band had left the stage, in the form of the audience singing the last notes of the song over and over, until the band came back to the stage – an interesting alternate to the usual foot stomping/clapping that bands usually get before they come back for an encore.
When they returned to the stage they broke right into “Keep the Car Running,” expressing their sheer gratification from being on stage performing; thanking the audience once again. Wrapping the evening was another anthem-like performance of “Wake up.”
Wanting to get a view from the balcony I made my way upstairs, where I could feel the entire balcony move in unison with the movement of the audience to the song. Amazing… The Arcade Fire definitely provided an evening to remember. They have seemed to resonate in a frequency like a magic trick, that will keep them interesting and engaging. Get concert tickets montreal.
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