Arcade Fire Cover the Stones, Party Hard at Louisville Tour Opener

The art-rock all-stars deliver on their arty ambitions and emotional intensity in Kentucky

Win Butler of Arcade Fire
Monica Schipper/Getty Images
Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs in Melbourne, Australia.
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In the months and weeks leading up to Arcade Fire's undertaking a full tour in support of Reflektor, the band made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, as well as a went on a run of smaller shows in Australia and select U.S. dates. All of which is to say that on March 6th at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, the superstar collective was more than ready to kickoff its tour proper. 

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Arcade Fire's current five-month jaunt is scheduled to hit arenas across the world – the grandest thing they've ever done, and on Thursday night, they played like they had something to prove. After opener/electronic music mad scientist Dan Deacon played a few of his manically joyous songs, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne appeared on a small hydraulic stage festooned with plastic palm trees and sang an acoustic version of "My Body Is a Cage." Moments later, in a feat of seeming teleportation, the couple joined the rest of the 12-piece band on a larger center-stage 25 feet from where they'd just been singing. From that moment on, it was evident this wasn't going to be the same Arcade Fire show as when they were last on the road, three years ago.

When they announced the tour last fall, Arcade Fire at first demanded, then suggested, that fans come to the shows decked out in fancy attire and costumes, a gambit which met with no small amount of online ire. But the power of persuasion worked, and about half of the 11,000 persons in attendance in Louisville adhered to the carnival-themed mandate and wore suit and ties, floor-length ball gowns, Mardi Gras-inspired masks and fur coats. There was even one concert-goer who came to the gig donning a skunk costume with a lit-up tail. So it was well-earned when Win Butler yelled to the crowd from the stage, "You guys dressed so fucking beautifully tonight!" 

Throughout their almost two-hour, 20-song set, Arcade Fire proved why they're one of the most artistically and emotionally satisfying rock bands touring today. The Reflektor tour is a visceral spectacle. Everything on stage is glazed in metallic and/or reflective material: a mirrored piano, Chassagne's dress and sequined gloves, the hexagonal mirrors that hovered above the band, the shimmery backdrop, the mylar confetti and a mysterious person who appeared amidst the band dressed as a human disco ball to twirl during a couple of the songs.

The band opened with the dance-y "Reflektor" and "Flashbulb Eyes" – replete with strobes to mimic actual flashbulbs – then settled into numbers from their earlier catalog, such as a steel drum, Caribbean-infused "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)," three in a row from the Grammy-winning The Suburbs, two car-themed songs from Neon Bible and "Haiti" from the almost ten-year-old Funeral.  

Since Arcade Fire was performing at the Yum! Center, Butler cheekily swiped at the namesake corporation, which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC when he prefaced "The Suburbs" with, "This is an appropriate song to be playing in a building with five fast food restaurants." Near the end of the show, a man dressed as Colonel Sanders stood next to Butler as he sang silly things like "it's so yummy" in a "Chariots of Fire" song tone.

The group concluded their regular set on "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" and returned for a five-song encore, including a rollicking cover of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" and Reflektor's "Here Comes the Night Time." Butler, who now adorned a giant papier-mâché mask of his likeness over his head, sang against the seductive thrum of congas and glockenspiel, as confetti rained on the dancing crowd. It was as if Haitian Carnaval and Mardi Gras had come to Kentucky.

During the concert's finale, the audience threw their hands up in the air and sang along to showstopper "Wake Up," and then Butler invited the crowd to stick around to hear Kid Koala do an after-show DJ set until the venue kicked everyone out. Once again, the glitzy crowd accepted Arcade Fire's directive to celebrate, a fitting cap to an ecstatic evening.

Set list:

"My Body Is A Cage"
"Reflektor"
"Flashbulb Eyes"
"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"
"Joan of Arc"
"The Suburbs"
"The Suburbs (Continued)"
"Ready to Start"
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
"Keep the Car Running"
"No Cars Go"
"Haiti"
"Afterlife"
"It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)"
"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
"Normal Person"
"Rebellion (Lies)"
"The Last Time" (Rolling Stones cover)
"Here Comes the Night Time"
"Wake Up" 

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