A couple months ago the Arcade Fire were going to be performing on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," and it was mentioned in the "Bands On TV" list for that week on this site. There were a few comments made regarding the band. I responded with something like "they're okay, maybe even good, but they're not as amazing as everyone says they are." Someone replied with simply: "you wouldn't say that if you saw them live." Sir, oh how right you were.
I wanted to get there two hours early so I could get a good seat, but there was already quite a long line at that time. This show was sold out. [Ed.'s Note: How sold out was it?] It was so sold out that even the scalpers were looking for tickets. I paid $20 for mine, but in line I heard them going for prices ranging from $125 to over $200. The show was held at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. I had never been there before and rumors that it contained actual seats were worrisome. Those rumors turned out to be true as it was a theatre with regular theatre seating and a balcony. "What the fuck?" was my initial reaction, but it ended up not making a difference to me. I had a fairly good seat, third row on the aisle of the left section, with a great view of the stage. That stage was cluttered with more instruments than I've ever seen at a show. After a short wait the lights dimmed and the show began.
The first band up was Final Fantasy, described on their official website as being "the solo violin project of Owen Pallett. The songs are about ghosts, romance, cooking, fantasy fiction and guilt." That name might sound familiar as he is also one of the violin players in the Arcade Fire. He was joined by one other musician, "Steph," with more to come later. I know it sounds bad, but it actually wasn't. Owen stood up front and sang and played his violin while "Steph" was hidden behind all of the Arcade Fire's instruments. I only saw her hand when she raised it after first being introduced. The music was very creative and original, with the violin being manipulated in various ways by Owen. I was very impressed with how he screamed into it, similar to the move Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock does when he screams into his guitar pickups. He had a great stage presence and was also very funny. Aside from Mr. Pallet, there were elementary school-like overhead projections of dinosaurs and various other things on a screen behind him, which everyone seemed to enjoy. The laughter got so loud at one point that Owen had to stop and ask what was so funny. Someone said "dinosaurs kissing other dinosaurs." The humor continued when, before playing a song which he said was about "casting magic," he said that he thought it was stupid that people write songs about sex. "They're like 'do me baby,' but some people have never had sex. You know because they spend all their time playing magic cards." Another song was called "This Is The Dream Of Win And Regine," named after the Arcade Fire's front-couple. Owen was joined by the Arcade Fire's Jeremy Gara on drums for the last two songs and Regine Chassagne on a single drum and vocals for the last song. That song was a cover of Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. The material may have been a little weak, but Owen Pallet lights up the stage.
This was a very well-organized show, and the next band, Wolf Parade, took the stage only about ten minutes after Final Fantasy left. The band consisted of four members, playing guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard respectively. They played fairly generic indie rock, but it was fun and danceable. About two songs in people started to creep down from their seats and move to the front of the stage. Within thirty seconds front row seats were meaningless as those people now had four rows standing in front of them. I was one of the lucky ones and got a nice spot right up front. Once Wolf Parade finished playing the same song about ten times in a row they cleared the stage and the Arcade Fire began to set up.
The excitement was palpable. Everyone knew that what we were about to see was going to be amazing, but it was so much more than we could have ever expected. All eight members of the Arcade Fire gathered on the stage and orchestral warm-up noises began as the lights went down. They opened with a raucous version of (my favorite) "Laika." Richard Reed Parry and Tim Kingsbury were going crazy, donning crash helmets and drumming on everything in sight (including each other). The string section creaked along with Win Butler's vocals while the drums boomed, all complemented by thick bass and subtle accordion. The crowd was singing along just as loud as the band. Next they played an old song, "No Cars Go," and a new song, "Intervention," both inciting the crowd into a frenzy with their catchiness and fast tempos. Regine was mesmerizing, leading the way on "Haiti," and she finished the song by doing a lovely robot dance. They followed with another old song and almost all of Funeral. Their live sound is more like traditional rock, as the guitars, bass, and drums overpower the violins, cello, and miscellaneous instruments, but don't drown them out completely. The tempo is a lot faster than on their recordings as well. Some highlights of the show were more playing on the parts of Richard and Tim on "Rebellion (Lies)." Tim put on Richard's glasses and every time the chorus came up ("underneath the covers...") he'd cover Richard's head with a sheet. Another was Win's stage dive, guitar in tow, after striking the final chord of "Power Out" before going into an extended outro. Regine played the drums on all of the fast songs, including an awesome version of "Tunnels" to finish the set. Their energy was insane. They played with passion and skill the likes of which I've never seen before. They were just amazing, that's all you can say. Sounds good so far? Well, the fun was only beginning...
They came back on stage to play the encore. We all knew it was going to be "Wake Up." The orchestral warm-up noises started again, but then suddenly stopped. Win looked down at the audience and said "who wants to sing?" He started pulling audience members (including me) onto the stage. Richard came up behind me and said "yo, check it out. You're gonna play these" and handed me some drum sticks. At least twenty members of the crowd were on stage all together. We sang along to the chorus and those who had drumsticks played them along with the beat. One guy even got to play Win's guitar. It was the most amazing thing I've ever experienced at a show. All of these people screaming their lungs out to the same song, the band and the fans melding together. It was awesome. After the song was finished I got a hug from Regine. I told her that this was the best show that I had ever seen. And I sincerely meant it.
- Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
- No Cars Go
- Old Flame
- Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
- Une Annee Sans Lumiere
- Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
- Rebellion (Lies)
- Crown Of Love
- Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
- Wake Up