Ruling the world, one anthem at a time….
Published by JB on April 27, 2014.
Not merely satisfied with their streak of Grammy nominations for what they produce on vinyl (it feels soooo good to say that, by the way) Arcade Fire follows-up their headlining Coachella performances with a new leg of their shiny Reflektor tour. Gone are the square-shaped video screens they recently wore (I wanted to see the Prince one). Nope, we’re now into oversized Halloween style masks of the Pope, Obama and anything else they can get their roady costume staff to concoct. Blend that in with the 60% rate of fans showing up in either formal gear or costumes and you see Arcade Fire actually pull off what seemed like a dumb idea many months ago. They turn their live show into one Flaming Lips-style masquerade ball. It’s unpredictible, remarkable and held together in unison by the sing along undercurrent of their biggest hits. Chanting at the top of our lungs to ‘Wake Up’ is as easy for us right now as singing along to ‘Hey Jude’. We want to drink the kool-aid, and right now Arcade Fire is making the music that is so remarkably eclectic it harkens back to U2’s dramatic shift in styles from the late 80’s into the early 90’s. Both bands pull off reinvention with style and quality. They don’t do it for the sake of change, they do it for the sake of getting better. Only a tiny number of great bands have pulled off such an eclectic style with both commercial and critical success (Beatles, Pink Floyd, U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, etc.).
This show was humorously marred with Butler’s technical struggles with his guitars (one member of the road crew got chewed out pretty good during the 6th or 7th song) and Butler even laughed as he completely forgot the 2nd verse to ‘Joan of Arc’. At the end of the night they inadvertantly pulled off a Kansas cover (‘Dust in the Wind’) before realizing one important fact – they weren’t in Kansas. Yeah, oops. It all amounted to less than a speed bump on their rocket flight this evening. Finding that perfect mix between showmanship and musicianship Arcade Fire is showing us the deluxe version of themselves right now. Certainly it can’t continue on this pace, right? I predict a scaled down approach to their music next time around, but I thought that last time. Some tracks are just truly sublime. The opener “Here Comes the Night Time” with Butler entering the stage after a trek through the crowd is as clever a track as they’ve ever released. It’s head-bobbing, mid-tempo dance groove is magnetic. They fuse it perfectly in the live setting with the wonderful title track to the magnum opus The Suburbs. Two entirely different style songs – working perfectly together in the same show.
Butler is tall and lumpy but croons remarkably well – bending his knees to look into the crowd as the microphone hangs at an angle near his mouth. His showmanship has confidence and his movements are no longer clumsy. He’s like Jim Morrison and still getting better. His stage presence is powerful – moving from bass to guitar with blind ease and I never sensed a drop in his vocals – and I was trying to listen for one. He just kept coming.
The 11-piece band (that I counted) is the excessive delight and contrast to the we’re-too-cool-to-add members approach of great bands like the Black Keys (even though the last time I saw the Keys live there were far more than the two of them onstage). Sometimes excess works just fine when it’s pulled off like this. What we’re witnessing right now and in the past decade with Arcade Fire is a group that has darn near solidified it’s place many years from now into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How many times do you mutter to yourself when you see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on TV and wish you had seen a certain HoF band play live in their prime? Well, it’s happening now with Arcade Fire and it’s leaving an imprint on our musical culture much bands like Pink Floyd once did. Catch it now!