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Arcade Fire At The Forum, Friday August 1st 2014, Reviewed

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Arcade Fire

There was a time when Arcade Fire was almost my little secret, I had made a copy of their debut album ‘Funeral’ and gave it to a guy I liked a lot, and I used to cry when ‘Crown of Love’ was on the radio or jump of joy during ‘Wake Up’,… this album was part of my intimate world, but along the years my little secret blew up to humongous proportions and it totally escaped me. Yesterday night, Arcade Fire was playing the 17,000-seat Forum and their music didn’t belong to me anymore, the show was big in all directions and dimensions, it made my head explode and I said good bye to Arcade Fire I used to know.

When I arrived the Unicorns had started playing and they looked like small insects on a large stage, in a huge place. The forum is a big sport arena with a large standing area – and I still don’t know how so many people could get a ticket to get here and I couldn’t. At least I was going to enjoy a show comfortably seating with nobody pushing me, sweating on my arm, or dropping a beer on my feet, or was I?

The Unicorns have style, a moody one with lots of unexpected outbursts, but where I was, very few people were even paying attention. These guys hadn’t played for a decade, plus they had taken Arcade Fire on tour in the US as their support act back in the early 2000s, so people should have been more attentive – but I will go back to this shortly. The Unicorns covered Daniel Johnston and their last song stopped so abruptly it surprised me.

Then Dan Deacon served as a weird transition, entertaining people while Arcade Fire was setting up. He was occupying a small stage at the exact opposite side of the large stage and he transformed the floor into an electronic discotheque with his weird soundscapes. He made people form large circles for a dance contest, and several people actually did it, soon followed by many others… He was reworking the mosh pit with synth swirls, beats and auto-tuned-echoing female-like screams and was talking more than a Wayne Coyne on acid, which is very hard to do. He had decided to control the crowd as if it was an element of his music, a knob of his beat machine and people were obeying and following each other like sheep. May be this was an useful distraction from his music, is there something more boring than an EDM show otherwise? But at the end, what was this? The happy hour at the club med?

Arcade Fire took the stage in a very Arcade Fire way, walking through the crowd and soon they were on stage, playing ‘Reflektor’ to open their very long show with flashing lights and a grandiose mise-en-scene. I was wondering whether they would be able to command such a large space, but they certainly proved they could, they are now the arena type and all night long, they rewarded their public with amazing visuals and over-the-top surprises. There is a Joe Strummer song that says ‘I’m gonna go out dancin’ every night/… I’m gonna do everything silver and gold’, and it was as if they had chosen this as the theme of the night, the band was constantly bathing in warm gold-silver lights and dancing was a big part of the show.

If their last album  ‘Reflektor’ was of course largely represented in the set, they apparently continued to ignore their second album and chose to play many songs of their beloved ‘Funeral’ (‘Neighborhood # 3 (Power Out)’, ‘Rebellion (lies)’, ‘Haiti’, and of course ‘Wake Up’), while playing a few from their Grammy-winner ‘The Suburbs’, but each song brought its surprise of theatricality. I counted thirteen people on stage, so there was a lot going on, and musicians were often running from one side of the stage to another

Beside the dancing, mirrors were the other theme of the night, during ‘Reflektor’, Regine was holding two round ones, reflecting the lights into our eyes, and a giant disco ball was doing the same during ‘We Exist’. The small stage at the opposite side of the floor was also working as a mirror of the large one, a Reflektor Man, dressed up with fragmented mirrors (just like in their video) surrounded by fumes appeared there during ‘Afterlife’, sending flashes of light around the room. Then, Régine, magically appeared on this small stage, during ‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’, singing in duo with her husband as the two were separated by the crowd. A highlight of the show and a big dramatic and romantic effect if there was one!

Everything about this night was big, all the songs resonated like anthems and even the reaction of the crowd was spectacular, especially when Win Butler sang the line in the Suburbs that says, ‘Why I want a daughter while I’m still young/….But if it’s too much to ask/Then send me a son’… Régine and Win just got a baby son, right? The old songs may have been received with more fervor than the new ones, but I may be a bit bias there because I did myself feel more emotion during ‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’ than during any of the new ones… Could this Reflector business be too much about gold and confetti? There were lots of them falling over our heads during one song of the encore ‘Here Comes the Night Time’… and I suddenly became nostalgic about the time when Arcade Fire was more about raw and pure emotion and less about disco balls.

That said this was a very visual and spectacular show, even able to blow up the mind of the most disillusioned person,… if only people would just watch… and this is what I hate with arena shows, people are not into it enough, they seem to be just there to grab a beer or two or more, constantly moving in front of you, constantly distracting me from the show. And to this girl who tapped me on the shoulder to tell me (erroneously) that I was seating at her place, may be you should have stayed home, why even bother coming when you have already missed 14 songs? The show was certainly attended by fervent fans but this has also become a place to show up wearing your hand-made Mascarade ball mask.

Even with that many people on stage, Win Butler was the frontman of the night, often interacting with the front row lucky people, but his wife Régine was able to steal the show at times, especially during ‘Haiti’ and ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’, thanks to her eerie vocals and gracious dance with luminous ribbons… Jut before the encore a fake band wearing papier-mâché bubble heads started to play Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ before being rudely interrupted by Win Butler, shouting,  ‘Guys, come on, that was seriously lame!’… I am not sure if this was addressed to the band or the song, may be Axl Rose wouldn’t have approved, but this was the only moment Win could have fulfilled his reputation, even though it was probably a joke…. He also put on one of this massive head to start covering Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Been Caught Stealing’ and Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, but they didn’t do much more than the intros… Unoriginally, Arcade Fire closed the show with ‘Wake Up’, which sounded like the top of all their anthems although it was already hard to compete with ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ confetti-fest. They even kept the Forum party going after the show with Steve Mackey of the British band Pulp, spinning records for hours,… but I left the party at this moment.

My old little secret has just blown up to uncontrollable proportions, it now belongs to the stadium circuit with vendors of pretzels circulating between the rows and trying to sell us a drink during ‘Rebellion’, it’s just difficult to continue holding our mistake up with a beer in each hand.

Setlist

Reflektor
Flashbulb Eyes
Neighborhood # 3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (lies)
Joan of Arc
Suburban War
The Suburbs
The Suburbs (continued)
Ready to Start
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
We Exist
No Cars Go
Haiti
Afterlife
It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Encore
Normal Person
w/ Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” intros)
Here Comes the Night Time
Wake Up




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