Touring in support of their fourth studio album Reflector, Arcade Fire have literally been on fire pleasing fans, critics and anyone else within earshot. Produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, the new record stretches the band’s already eclectic, world-music sound into new dimensions (is that disco?). Headed up by Win Butler and wife Régine Chassagne, the Montreal based collective is full of multi-instrumentalists. It seems that every member played at least three instruments (if not more) throughout the evening.
Massive exposure was gained when the group won the Grammy for Album of the Year for 2010’s The Suburbs, adding to their unrivaled cult status (after similar critical acclaim from the band’s first two outings Funeral and Neon Bible). Surprising the fans, the band entered the amphitheatre walking through the audience wearing masks. Arcade Fire fans come to concerts decked out in their best Mardi-Gras-like costumes (lots of masks). As Butler climbed the stairs at mid-stage, he tore the mask off his head and charged into the title track of the new album.
The whole Reflector theme inspired the stage design with a ceiling of mirrors. The “Mirror Man” appeared a few songs later, walking through the audience. He was wearing a patchwork mirrored outfit, which had a mirror ball effect when the spotlights hit the suit. As “Better Get Right” began, Butler announced, “This song is dedicated to Donald Sterling” (who is – if you’ve been living under a rock – the embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner who recently made some unfortunate racist statements).
As has been the case for years, Arcade Fire donate one dollar from each ticket sold on the tour to Haiti relief efforts. Chassagne was born in Montreal, but is of Haitian descent (her parents fled Haiti during the Duvalier dictatorship) and the band has made several trips there. For “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” Chassagne appeared on a pedestal in the middle of the crowd as Butler stood on a speaker in the middle of the stage. They were singing to each other, sometimes reaching out. Nice moment. To reiterate, everyone in this band can play everything. As drummer Jeremy Gara jumped from behind his kit to play a wicked guitar on the wonderful “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” Chassagne took control of the drums like a seasoned veteran. Win Butler’s brother, Will, spent time playing bass guitar as well as keyboards and a host of other instruments.
When a fan tossed a Houston Rockets cap to the stage, Butler donned it, beaming (he grew up in Houston). He then proceeded to say nice things about the Atlanta Hawks. For the encore, the famous bobbleheads came prancing through the crowd to an eerily slowed down version of “Hey Ya” by Atlanta’s own OutKast. Butler said, “Thank you Atlanta for giving us OutKast!” The humongous bobbleheads appear to be papier-mâché and are worn by actual humans, more specifically, fans plucked from the masses (how they can see out of those things is a mystery). Most of the heads have a creepy resemblance to band members, but one new addition looked a lot like Pope Francis (with a devious smirk on his face).
The encore was a rousing set, which included a worthy cover of “Radio Free Europe,” an early single from Georgia-based R.E.M. While many of the younger fanatics in the audience may have been unfamiliar with this track, it was not lost on others. Arcade Fire’s traditional final tune is “Wake Up,” and that did not change for this show. The crowd, knowing all the words and all the “Oh, OH, oh, OH, oh, ohs…” became one with the band as confetti was shot out across the amphitheatre.
Arcade Fire is a band that have evolved meticulously, trying new things and experimenting with new sounds and producers. Heaven only knows what they’ll come up with next.
Connecticut native Merrill Garbus a.k.a. tUnE-yArDs was the supporting act and riled the crowd up quite a bit. Touring in support of her soon-to-be-released (May 6) album Nikki Nack, the sound is created on the spot, as Garbus lays down drum loops, ukuleles and vocals. Current hit “Water Fountain” is getting some buzz at the moment.
Kid Koala – decked out in a koala suit – was the DJ for the evening and had a few killer sets, even mixing up sounds with “Moon River” (his mom’s favorite song and going out to all the “over-50 women”). Once again, we’ve got a Georgia native getting covered by a Canadian (Johnny Mercer is from Savannah).
2. Flashbulb Eyes
3. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
4. Rebellion (Lies)
5. My Body Is a Cage/Joan of Arc
6. Get Right
7. Month of May
8. The Suburbs
9. The Suburbs (Continued)
10. Ready to Start
11. We Exist
12. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
16. It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
17. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
18. Normal Person
19. Radio Free Europe
20. Here Comes the Night Time
21. Wake Up