The band, surprise winners of the Album of the Year trophy at this year’s Grammy awards for their excellent 2010 release, The Suburbs, did not disappoint in the least, delivering an engaging and typically energetic show despite playing to a half-full basketball arena.
Led by the lanky Win Butler and his multi-instrumentalist wife Regine Chassagne, Arcade Fire touched on all three of their albums in almost equal measure. And while they did so, they offered a lesson in how to keep a crowd engaged with dynamic songs, mesmerizing instrumental interplay and just enough charming between-song banter.
Arcade Fire is a multi-sensory experience, for sure, and the band took full advantage of the arena-sized UCCU Center’s stage, providing one massive video screen in the back and two smaller screens even higher. Strobe lights and an ever-changing color scheme added to the visual feast, but truly, when you have eight people on stage rocking out on various violins, xylophones, drums and assorted other instruments, there is always plenty to watch.
Arcade Fire started with a bombastic take on the punky “Month of May” from The Suburbs, with Butler belting out the lines “Well some people singing sounds like screaming!” to the delight of the bouncing crowd stuffed up against the stage. The band immediately followed with a couple of favorites from their debut album, Funeral; “Rebellion (Lies) and “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” both hit their marks.
The short, poppy “City With No Children” and the expansive “Rococo” followed, with the band barely pausing between songs to this point. Finally, Butler thanked the crowd and noted that a dollar from every ticket sold to the show would be donated to Partners in Health, a charity dedicated to helping citizens of Haiti.
A dramatic “Intervention” followed, the folk ballad showcasing a band just as comfortable dealing in delicate flourishes as bombastic rock moves. From that point on, the energy never flagged, through the beautiful violins of “The Suburbs,” which segued slyly into “Suburban War.” “No Cars Go” had the 4,000 or so on hand chanting along with the band, and Chassagne’s vocal on “Haiti” was oddly endearing, reminding me of Bjork during the Sugarcubes days.
Among the highlights of the rest of the 17-song show (encore included) were “We Used to Wait,” an excellent take on “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and the set-closing epic “Wake Up.”
Arcade Fire’s live show is such that it’s hard to imagine anyone not getting into the band after witnessing a gig. But more than that, no band captures the sense of displacement, ennui, daydreams and loneliness of suburban life in quite the same way Butler and Co. do, wrapping the lyrics in a swath of majestic rock and modern folk. Arcade Fire is the complete package.