TAS Live Review: Arcade Fire At Madison Square Garden, August 5
Seeing Arcade Fire live was magnificent; for one thing, my stereo doesn't go nearly as loud as the sound system at Madison Square Garden, and I am of the belief that music like this sounds better when it's blasting.
In "Month of May," (from the band's new album The Suburbs) Win Butler laments the "kids all standing with their arms folded tight," as if to suggest that today's young people don't appreciate the music and art that supposedly represents their cultural moment, or are simply too cool to participate. But judging from the rapturous crowd Thursday night, Win's prediction couldn't be more wrong. And thank the gods of rock for that!
Arcade Fire is a giant family - literally. Not only in familial sense, since Butler's wife Régine Chassagne and brother Will are central members, but also in the way they interact with each other on stage. They effortlessly hand off instruments to one another between songs and chant the anthemic choruses of Funeral shoulder to shoulder. In a sense, it was all very choreographed; but when there is a live webcast at stake (directed by Terry Gilliam, no less), a bit of planning ahead is inevitable. Still, the show itself was a spectacle. The mood was one of dark intensity rather than a showy light display. A giant screen behind the band showed a massive highway overpass that could be found anywhere in the USA - another indication of The Suburbs' themes of the frustration of modernization.
I was at first skeptical that a band like Arcade Fire would be playing one of the biggest and most important venues in America. Was it too big, even for them? No. Their bombastic energy filled the stadium perfectly. Each member of the wild rumpus was fun to watch: lanky, red-headed Richard Reed Perry flailed in a frenzy; Will Butler circled the stage at a full sprint while banging a drum held high over his head.
Twice, Win Butler vaulted himself off stage into the audience (much to the dismay of the stage hands who had to keep track of his massive microphone cable). During "We Used to Wait," he wobbly balanced on the railings, straddling the median before throwing himself full force into the throng of manic fans in the general admission section. Even from my perch in section 331, I could sense the same excitement as the people trying to shout with him into his mic. Meanwhile, Régine was splendiferous in that disco ball dress (I want one!), and sparkled more than the Dorothy's ruby slippers in her resounding performance, especially during Funeral favorite "Haïti" and the new, 80s synth-inspired "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)." While everyone around me imitated her dance moves, I couldn't keep my eyes off her.
The set was heavy with songs from 2004's Funeral, which, in case you forgot, rocks so hard. While it was exciting to hear the development of the band's new material, the true moments of joy came from the familiar. The opening drum beat of show closer "Wake Up" incited a vocal riot, and a moment of Inception-style catharsis came when thousands of people screamed the requisite "aahs" at the top of their lungs. The band and the crowd were united; and while I'm not even sure in what, I can tell you it was a beautiful thing.
Arcade Fire's Set List
Ready to Start
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Crown of Love
We Used to Wait
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)