Review: Arcade Fire Preaches to Its North American Choir for the Last Time This Tour* - U2 Feedback

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Old 06-07-2007, 02:11 AM   #1
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Review: Arcade Fire Preaches to Its North American Choir for the Last Time This Tour*


By Luke Pimentel

The word amongst the faithful these days is that Arcade Fire have saved rock. While there is ample evidence of this in their critically-lauded studio recordings, much of the hyperbole surrounding their importance stems from their amazing live shows, which are quite unlike anything else on the planet.

Naysayers—those sour folk who would dismiss the band as bombastic and overly-romanticized—were clearly not in attendance at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on June 2nd, where the band put to rest their triumphant North American tour with a thunderous 17-song set.

For Arcade Fire, “going out with a bang” meant an impromptu forty-foot climb up a scaffolding tower by bassist-percussionist Will Butler, the kind of stunt that would make a Cirque du Soleil performer nauseous.

Apparently, Arcade Fire are so big right now, even the venues they perform in cannot contain them.

The set—delivered under a chilly shroud of East Bay Area fog—zigzagged between moments of delicate melancholia (the gorgeous “In the Backseat”) and manic-prophet energy (“Antichrist Television Blues”). A sense of final-show urgency helped lend additional edge, with the band pulling out all the stops on their drum-throwing, cymbal-crashing exuberance, and the crowd lapping up the runoff like five-star filet mignon.

Will’s Climb—photo by Luke Pimentel

Longtime fans were sent into delirium by the inclusion of “Headlights Look like Diamonds”, a song off the band’s debut E.P. that had not been performed for several years. Earlier in the day, lead singer Win Butler had nearly been arrested by local police over an argument involving half-court basketball, and he recalled the incident midway through the set, wearing a sheepish grin.

“If we can’t stop the war,” he joked, “maybe we can at least boycott Berkeley sports facilities.”

Watching Arcade Fire perform, it’s rather shocking how willing they are to take risks and give all for the crowd. Their stage show is live in the truest sense; the performers create an intoxicating environment of unpredictability, both in terms of their stage antics and their musical performance.

They encourage audience participation at all turns, and the Berkeley crowd did not disappoint, fervently singing and clapping along to almost every song. Even an encore break didn’t stop the crowd from momentarily transforming into the world’s largest choir, as they continued to ooh-ooh-ooh the climactic melody of main set closer “Rebellion (Lies),” long after the song had ended and the band had left the stage.

When the band returned to find the crowd still singing away, they started up an impromptu marching beat to accommodate the enthusiasm. This sort of intimate give-and-take between performer and audience—especially an audience of thousands—is rare, and it’s exhilarating to see a group so engaging to an audience that they can make the audience take on a life of its own.

Wandering around on the street after the show, I noted that every person had a goofy grin on his or her face, like they had just gotten laid for the first time. I suspect that other shows in other cities have inspired similar reactions. If so, then Arcade Fire haven’t just done something as pedestrian as “saving” rock. They’ve managed to wring an emotional catharsis out of our shared feelings of paranoia and doubt. That, more than anything else, makes them the most exciting band of their time.

For more information on Arcade Fire, please visit Neon Bible was released March 6, 2007 on Merge Records.

Stand up to rock stars!
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Old 06-07-2007, 06:52 PM   #2
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I was at that show, and man, what a show. Almost felt like... well, a U2 show.


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Old 06-08-2007, 03:46 PM   #3
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That was such a great show. I brought along a friend who had only heard Wake Up and Lies and she left that show an Arcade Fire convert.

Thanks for the review!
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