On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of seeing Arcade Fire for the second time in my life. The first was several years ago at Squamish Music Festival. That show had been incredible then, so I was expecting no less from the performance on Saturday evening.
I remember this Canadian troupe being super fun, quirky, and amazing; they definitely lived up to that reputation. This concert was full of surprises and lots of dancing.
Arcade Fire is one of those groups where you’ll never know what to expect when they’re on stage. I remember at Squamish Music Festival, they came out wearing giant bauble heads (which covered their faces), and they started singing Bryan Adams. Very strange, but the audience went with it. Then about halfway through the song, the real Arcade Fire came on stage, jokingly chastising those who’d been imitating them. It was weird and awesome and totally random; I loved it.
The Weirdness Continues
This time around, the quirkiness started right from the get-go (even before the opener was on stage). There was an odd recording that came on the big screen every once in a while. The recording was of a cowboy with a galaxy face (which had been superimposed), and he was standing in front of a desert backdrop with a sky full of stars. He would say random things like, “enjoy your local hockey team” and he would try to rile up the audience by having men say something and then women say something else. He also introduced the bands.
The other odd thing was the stage set up: there was rope arranged around the central stage, as if to make it look like a wresting ring. Which then made sense once Arcade Fire was introduced.
A booming voice welcomed Arcade Fire as if they were all wrestlers coming into the ring. It was cool because they all walked out to the stage through the general seating area, giving high fives to the audience members as they walked by.
A Good Mix
Once on stage, Arcade Fire opened with “Everything Now,” off their newest album Everything Now. Although the group was promoting the new album with this tour (Infinite Content World Tour), there was a great mix between all five of the group’s albums.
“Rebellion (Lies)” – one of my all-time favourite Arcade Fire tunes – was one such song, which they played third in their set. It was AMAZING! Seeing the group move around on stage and off (the drummer jumped down into the crowd, running through with his drum!) and feeling the energy from the crowd was absolutely intoxicating. And the concert just kept getting better.
Time to Join In
Many Arcade Fire songs have sections in which the notes are easily recognizable and easy to sing to. Throughout the concert, the lead singer, Win Butler, often asked the audience to sing along, and would encourage them to continue long after the music ended, such as with “No Cars Go.” Butler expressed his love of this once the crowd had finished their last chorus: “Thank you, that’s a beautiful thing.”
On top of Arcade Fire’s enthusiastic crowd engagement, their unlimited energy on stage, and their fun quirkiness, they’re also incredibly talented. In every song, members of the band switched to a new instrument. Régine Chassagne (lead), for instance, played the accordion, drums and other percussion (including liquor bottles played like a xylophone!), and the piano. She can also play hurdy-gurdies and recorders (though she didn’t play them the night of the concert).
Oh, and ps, Arcade Fire is also a group of philanthropists: $1 from each ticket of their concerts (since 2015!) go to Kanpe (a foundation helping Haitian families achieve financial autonomy) and Partners in Health (a non-profit health care organization).
The concert continued on with “Reflektor,” in which the audience received another sweet surprise. Near the end of the song, Chassagne made her way off the stage and through the crowd. She then started a dance party, right in the middle of the audience.
That was another thing that was so great about Arcade Fire: when they perform, it’s one giant dance party. As they performed “Neighborhood #3,” the last song before leaving the stage, they played with such fervour and fierceness that it felt as though the whole arena was moving.
There was a deafening cheer from the audience as Arcade Fire returned to the stage. Things started a little slower with, “We Don’t Deserve Love,” which changed the energy in the building. But, you could also feel an anticipation buzzing through the crowd.
“Wake Up” was the final, incredible end to the concert. Again, Butler, and the rest of Arcade Fire, encouraged the audience to continue singing those 19 beautiful, distinct notes (first heard at about the 22 second-mark in the song). As Arcade Fire again walked through the crowd to exit, Butler started singing “Stand By Me,” with the audience as his background. The group continued singing and playing, even after they had completely left the arena. And the audience just kept on singing. It was simply magical.
As I was walking to the bus stop afterwards, people were still singing those notes. My heart was so happy.
This performance from Arcade Fire was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I’ve seen in a long time. Even just writing this review, I’m getting excited all over again.
If you haven’t seen Arcade Fire live, put it on your bucket list. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Photos © Jamie Taylor//Cryptic Photography