Friday, June 01, 2007

Arcade Fire at the Greek Theatre -- Concert Review

It's been said that one can only know the feeling of being in love when one is actually in love. Maybe that applies to the explosive synergy created by combining the passion, talent and joy at an Arcade Fire concert.

On Wednesday, May 30, the seven (official) members of Arcade Fire (plus other contributors) managed to create a metaphorical roof over an open air venue just so they could obliterate it. The only thing that makes that hyperbole (that isn't) even more amazing is that they've done this each time I saw them.

The first time was at the Hollywood Bowl two summers ago when they opened for David Byrne and played such a strong show that they instigated a spontaneous pit on one of the terraces separating the upper levels (where we were). It was a 200-person jumping amoeba of joy. The ushers let it happen, because there was no fucking way to restrain that kind of combustion. Just let it burn itself off, which it did peacefully.

But this time I luckily scored pit tickets, which ultimately created a vibe that I was at a roofless Troubadour seeing the biggest band in the world in a tiny club. As an aside I love these cats who now call Montreal home, because pit tickets were available only on show day beginning at 6:30 p.m. virtually ensuring that only fans were in the pit (not brokers or people connected to them).

During the set, which opened with Keep the Car Running (a song that made sure no one started the show sitting down, stirred the salivating audience into a frenzy and amazingly served merely as a starting point for the show's energy), Win Butler's wife RĂ©gine Chassagne frequently locked eyes with those of us in front and seducing everyone in the pit with her snake charmer eyes and unbridled grins that said "Everytime you go crazy, I'll top it. Wanna play?" She even quasi-posed for cameraphone snaps.

The other coolest fucking thing about being that close ... I could hear stuff without mics, like certain vocals, most of the percussion and even knew when to pay extra attention to catch the clarinet and french horn. Btw, I think everyone save for Win and the violin and viola performers played about a half dozen instruments. Even with 12 years of clarinet and passable saxophone and trumpet, I couldn't join the band.

Being up that close, I got to watch a cameraman getting nearly pile-drived (look that up on Wikipedia to get the Paul Orndorf WWF reference). He seemed to love every second of it, smiling as if knowing that this was the best part of his job. I jealously watched a front-row-of-the-pit fan snag a drum stick that flew into the pit. And since I didn't want to be the pit fan with no energy (see KCRW benefit show every year), I ultimately injured my wrist from clapping too hard and too much (literally. I had to wear a wrist brace for the last two days at work).

A large multi-instrumental band like Arcade Fire, with band members who run around stage ready to smash anything as percussion, is virtually guaranteed to light the place afire with its fast hard-rocking songs like No Cars Go, Tunnels and The Well and the Lighthouse, which all tore through the audience. But songs like the moody My Body is a Cage turned into a mass heart-breaker as Win melodically cried "My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love, but my mind holds the key."

The only disappointment was ironically enough, Intervention, which is an early favorite to be my favorite song of the year. For some odd reason this song came off flat. It might have been that the audience expected more so when the band didn't ignite immediately they were dulled and when the band didn't see us start eating ourselves immediately they lost the fire. So the amazing synergy they seem to feed off of failed us all.

Ultimately though, for a show to leave me or anyone sighing in awe for an entire drive home and even now days later, it has to close strongest. And this one did.

During Power Out they blew us away. Urgent might be one of the most overused words in the music critics' lexicon, but I defy anyone to find a more immediate feeling record from the last 10 years; a song that grabbed you and told you music as we know it is about to change the way Power Out did when it hit the airwaves. The girl in front of Dave turned into a fuzzy-topped pogo stick as the drums led the collective racing heartbeat.

And then things got really interesting ... Win lowered himself into the pit as crowd members were slapping fives on his sweat-soaked back and then he crawled over the railing and literally rushed his way back to the very back of the theater. At that point the other band members called for him to "come on down" (two members went to a The Price is Right taping earlier that day and wore their yellow name tags).

He did and then the stage turned into a maelstrom of sound as everyone just hammered away on their percussion, tore through the strings on their guitars, shredded their violins or blasted their brass until ... emerged from the chaotic cocoon, Rebellion, which sounded better than at the Bowl.

Finally, they closed with Wake Up, which in the best way didn't turn into too massive a sing along. The crowd's energy would have overwhelmed the soundsystem, which was honestly not quite up to the task (at least not for the pit, occassionally vocals sounded muted). But with a crowd so hypnotized they wanted to make sure they heard the band's melodic screams of catharsis.

Wow. I try not to become over-the-top guy, but this show was that fucking good.

Here's one sample ...

1 comment:

beaming said...

I was there and reading it from your perspective made it felt like I was reading a totally different concert. Question... how did you know that the pit tickets were being sold during the day of the concert? Because if I knew that......