Arcade Fire Fires Up The Ryman

August 10, 2010 · Print This Article

Last night, I journeyed through the marvelous wonder that is the beautiful downtown of Nashville, Tennessee. Before long, I found myself in a beautiful, historic church. Once Inside the church and comfortably seated in the smooth wooden pew, I found myself surrounded by darkness. When suddenly the stage in front of me ignited with light and energy, I found myself watching eight musicians perform a song under a bridge. They were singing of lost dreams and fears about businessmen drinking their blood. They were singing of fables about emperors not wearing clothes. They were singing of being scared, bored, and the feelings of love lost.

To be more literal, I wasn’t randomly wandering through Nashville, this church was the Ryman Auditorium and Arcade Fire was performing in front of a background that made them appear as if they were playing below the bridge of a major intersection. They were, however, singing of loves lost and blood drinking businessmen as they opened a mind-blowing performance with “Ready to Start” from their recent release “The Suburbs.”

“We bow to the history [of the Ryman Auditorium], but we are still going to try and be ourselves up here.” – Win Butler, Arcade Fire front man

Remember childhood feelings of imagination? Remember when the smallest thing could remove your mind from the real world and send you to a place where mystical things seemed perfect? This show is the closest I have felt to that since I was 5-years old and watching Fern Gully.

Eight musicians filled a multi-level stage that served as a playground for the talented. The band would rotate around the stage playing different instruments as they transitioned from song to song. The lights were synced with the music as if they were a practiced member of the band.

The energy of this group had an indescribably contagious dynamic. As the mystical sounds of the group waved in and out, the Ryman was filled with a haunting feedback, which only further intensified tracks from Funeral, Neon Bible and The Suburbs.

Régine Chassagne danced across the stage like a bewitched ragdoll. As she strolled about, her movement brought the dark music to life. Butler’s eerie voice pierced over the powerful pair of violinists and roaring authority of three different percussion sets.

Songs from Funeral and Neon Bible provided the highest energy segments of the show, while the more reflective and pronounced lyrics of Suburbs’ tracks seemed to quiet the audience as they anxiously waited on the next verse.

Win Butler calls out, “Hey, we’re in a church right,” and the slow droning sounds of the organ begin to echo through the auditorium. I watched as attendees ran from the concession lines and bathrooms to make it back into the auditorium to see “Intervention.” This was one of four songs during which Butler climbed up to the second level of the stage to sing and play the piano. Already standing over 6-feet tall, Butler looked majestic sitting above the rest of the Arcade Fire ensemble.

Only moments later, Butler dove into the crowd and screamed into his microphone while face-to-face with his audience. He picked up a metal folding chair and passed it to the fans to pass around as if the object were crowd surfing. This transitioned into “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” which was appropriately accompanied by blackouts pierced with eccentric red and white flashes of light.

After an incredible sing-along to “Rebellion (Lies),” the band thanked the crowd, waved and left the stage. This exit was quickly met with the loudest cry for an encore I have ever seen the Ryman witness. Hundreds and hundreds of hands were beating on the pew in front of them as stomping rocked the entire building.

Arcade Fire returned to the stage for a three-song encore featuring one track from each of their releases. This final fifteen-minutes was perfectly weird. Going back to my original thought, for these three songs I forgot about everything in the world except for the magical performance taking place before my eyes. Together as a giant choir we all sang along to the final song of the evening, “Wake Up.”

-Words and photos by: Landin E. King, Contributing Editor

“Children wake up, hold your mistake up, before they turn the [Nashville] summer into dust.”

Set List

  1. Ready to Start (Suburbs)
  2. Neighborhood #2 (Laika) (Funeral)
  3. No Cars Go (Neon bible)
  4. Haiti (Funeral)
  5. Half Light II (No Celebration) (Suburbs)
  6. Suburbs (Suburbs)
  7. Suburban War (Suburbs)
  8. Intervention (Neon Bible)
  9. Crown of Love (Funeral)

10. Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels) (Funeral)

11. Deep Blue (Suburbs)

12. We Used to Wait (Suburbs)

13. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) (Funeral)

14. Rebellion (Lies) (Funeral)

  1. Encore

15. Keep the Car Running (Neon Bible)

16. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (Suburbs)

17. Wake Up (Funeral)


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