It was nine years ago that a relatively unknown Montreal band, Arcade Fire, played CMJ's Music Marathon in New York City. The show was at the Mercury Lounge, and in front of about 250 people. With this piece of Arcade Fire's history in mind, there is something endearing about the charade the band maintained during their performance as the Reflektors at 299 Meserole on Friday night. Now one of the most influential rock bands around, these Grammy-winners were able to relive a piece of their history in a small venue, playing under a name that few recognized, with songs that the crowd didn't know the words to.
Attendees were instructed to dress in formalwear or in costume, and the line to get into the show snaked down multiple blocks outside the East Williamsburg venue. Disco balls, Christmas lights, and two robust potted plants decorated the inside of 299 Meserole, all centered around a small stage over which the words "The Reflektors" were projected.
At about 9:30, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem sauntered onstage to cheers, and announced that the Reflektors would begin playing shortly. Three musicians in oversized paper maché heads took to the stage, but music started playing from the left side of the venue. After a few moments of confusion, a black curtain to the left of the main stage dropped away, and a much larger stage (where Arcade Fire had begun to play) became visible. What ensued was half stampede, half collective pivot. ("We just thought it was funny," Win Butler later said.)
The set opened with "Reflektor," the first single from the band's upcoming LP. What followed included two "cover" songs: "Sprawl II" from The Suburbs, and "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" from Funeral. During the former, Régine Chassagne twirled, shook the fluorescent pink fringe adorning her arms and hands, and broke out what appeared to be a ribbon dancer (which any child of the 90s will recognize from commercials on Nickelodeon).
The new material played during the set was promising: James Murphy's influence could be heard in the details--songs from Reflektor seemed more grounded with a more extensive low end, and many bore the hallmarks of Murphy's own nu-disco influences (particularly the title track). Of particular interest was "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)", for its gorgeous, sprawling arrangement with interludes reminiscent of earlier, less rhythmic Arcade Fire cuts.
Win and company declined to play an encore to the obvious dismay of the audience, but announced that the band would DJ for the remainder of the evening. This did little to sour the overall experience of the show: there was a pervasive sense that this concert was special, and no lack of encore, lack of air conditioning, or fake-stage antics could do much to ruin it.