In a lot of ways, Arcade Fire's massive 2013 double-LP Reflektor was a rock record about rock records; an attempt for the band to pay tribute to their myriad influences while still making something that was distinctly their own. Fittingly, their subsequent world tour has been filled with cover songs, most of them specific to whatever city or region they happened to be visiting – Prince in Minneapolis, ABBA in Stockholm and the Ramones in New York City. With the tour now history, revisit the band's extensive cover song setlist.
Arcade Fire tapped into the contained ferocity to INXS' "Devil Inside" and then cranked it up a few notches, letting multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry lead a three-vocalist attack. It's enough to give the final refrain the perfect amount of stadium-sized melodrama and wonder.
Back in March, Arcade Fire kicked off their North American trek with a rambunctious cover of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" in Louisville, Kentucky. Five months later, Mavis Staples led a rousing rendition of "This May Be the Last Time," a traditional gospel number the Staples Singers recorded in 1955, and brought the house down by segueing into the Jagger-Richards tune.
In honor of Minnesota's funkiest resident, Butler led the band through a bustling rendition of "Controversy" while donning a digital box that displayed the not just Prince's face but the countenance of the state's least funky resident, Rep. Michelle Bachmann.
As they let the swinging strains of "Superstition" play out, it's hard not to think a cover of Wonder's clavinet-heavy classic would have been more in line with the dance-heavy turn Arcade Fire made on Reflektor. But their stomping, horn-laden cover of Little Stevie's "Uptight" worked just fine, also recalling the grandeur of the band's early baroque pop efforts.
Boyz II Men's "Motownphilly" is certainly an unexpected choice, but bolstered by spot-on horn stabs, a buoyant baseline and pitch-perfect harmonies, the band found the perfect middle-ground between their dancefloor-ready indie rock and that classic New Jack Swing.
Arcade Fire debuted their cover of "Heart of Glass" at a show in Butler's hometown outside Houston and played it at a gig in Austin as well — but all of that was clearly practice for Coachella performance with none other than Debbie Harry. The pristine pairing of Harry and Régine Chassagne's voices was perfect on its own, but Arcade Fire kept the momentum going by transitioning right into the Blondie-indebted Suburbs highlight, "Sprawl II."
Arcade Fire brought some cheeky grandeur to their truncated version of "Dust in the Wind," milking the beloved acoustic tune with some overwrought interpretive dance moves. It almost ended in a tender kiss, but Win Butler just had to point out, "Guys, that was really beautiful, but that's a Kansas song and we're in fuckin' Missouri. You fucked up. That's gonna kill when we play Lawrence, though."
Arcade Fire took the kitchen sink approach while boogying through Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" in St. Louis. The band found room for some sawing violin lines, a bleating sax solo and, of course, a group sing-along. Topping it all off, Arcade Fire offered a quick nod to the Clash by sneaking in a verse of "Brand New Cadillac."
Though not the most boisterous cover in their arsenal, Arcade Fire paid their relatively staid respects to the Athens, Georgia alt-rock heroes. Their rendition of "Radio Free Europe" is straightforward, and while the three-part harmonies give it some oomph, the band keeps things in check by nailing Michael Stipe's detached drone.
It was a sunglasses at night — and indoors — kind of vibe when Arcade Fire brought out Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch to assist on "The Cutter," which he and Butler delivered with a perfect amount of haunting heft.
As the saying goes: When in London, play "London." A "Shoplifters of the World Unite" B side, the track is definitely a deep cut, but you can still hear a slew of fans singing along in the background.
Proving once again that their repertoire knows not of international boundaries, Arcade Fire broke out the acoustic guitar, a flute and some four-part harmonies to pay tribute to Sweden's greatest pop export: ABBA. It's a charmingly sloppy cover of "Chiquitita" (tough to fault anyone for not being able to match ABBA's vocals), and the crowd eats it up, swaying their hands all along.
Richard Reed Parry once again took the helm on this cover of CCR's classic "Hey Tonight," using raggy howl that would certainly make John Fogerty. Arcade Fire also put their own spin on the track by throwing in a massive saxophone solo that helps carry the tune to the rafters.
As Arcade Fire tore through Jane's Addiction's biggest hit, Win Butler took the concept of life imitating art to new levels, grabbing a bunch of cameras and cellphones from fans in the front row. Nice guy that he is, he did hand them back — just as the band treated the crowd to a bit of Guns 'N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle."
Arcade Fire's cover of the Dead Kennedys' "California Uber Alles" held some extra heft: The San Francisco punk heroes wrote the song in 1979 as a way to skewer then-governor Jerry Brown — the same Jerry Brown who now, once again, serves as California's governor.
OK, Arcade Fire may have stretched their geographical criteria in order to play the Back to the Future theme — a Huey Lewis and the News song would've made way more sense in San Francisco — but Marty McFly himself, Michael J. Fox was born in Edmonton. Plus, that sax riff is a surefire way to flux everyone's capacitors.
Arcade Fire brought all bombast (but, unfortunately, no pyrotechnics) to their cover of "I Feel It All" from fellow Canadian indie darling Feist. While the singer-songwriter was born in Nova Scotia, Feist kick-started her music career in Calgary as the frontwoman of punk outfit Placebo. And for those bummed that a Calgary native wasn't given their due, Arcade Fire did introduce their Feist cover by miming Loverboy's "Everybody's Working for the Weekend."
Arcade Fire's affinity for Neil Young is well documented — Butler got to play a song he allegedly came up with in his sleep, "I Dreamed a Neil Young Song," with the man himself at the Bridge School Benefit — so it's no surprise the group attacked this Tonight's the Night track with just the right amount of ragged glory.
The Barack Obama papier-mâché heads were in tow when Arcade Fire tore through a lively, sax-tinged rendition of Fugazi's "Waiting Room." No better way to make a statement in the nation's capital than bringing out a faux-Obama to boogie down to the hardcore salvos of Ian MacKaye.
While Boston (the band) got their due when Arcade Fire mimed "More Than a Feeling," it was Boston (the city) alt-rock kings the Pixies who got the full cover treatment. Both Butler and Régine Chassagne broke out the pom-poms while the band offered up a rendition of "Alec Eiffel" laced with eerie layers of violins and synths.
Arcade Fire paid tribute to both New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis" and Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot" during their show in Brooklyn, welcoming David Johansen onto the stage to sing the latter and turning their rock show into the coolest wedding reception ever.
While Arcade Fire played "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" during a show in Denver, the band fittingly revived the Ramones cut for their second Brooklyn gig. Making the moment even more special, Arcade Fire welcomed Marky Ramone to sit in on drums and lead the crew through a vibrant version of "I Wanna Be Sedated."
The night before, Win Butler cheekily re-introduced Arcade Fire as the Talking Heads before the band bopped around to "Psycho Killer." It turned out to be half-joke, half-premonition, as former Talking Heads frontman David Bryne, showed up for the band's final show in Brooklyn. Dressed, ostensibly, as the Dracula who got his groove back, Byrne didn't assist the band on a Talking Heads track but provided some chilling, operatic vocals on a rendition of Suicide's 1979 single, "Dream Baby Dream."
Arcade Fire pulled double duty with this Bo Diddly standard, busting out a great, grizzled cover in the blues legend's home base of Chicago, and then playing it again two nights later in Toronto. The geographical twist paid tribute to Ronnie Hawkins, a rockabilly legend of the Ontario city who turned the track into one of his signature singles.
Arcade Fire closed out their sprawling Reflektor tour with a hometown gig at Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau. With a slew of artists to possibly cover, the band unsurprisingly went with one of Win Butler's favorites, delivering a blistering performance of Wolf Parade's "I'll Believe in Anything." The two bands share some history: Not only did they come out of the Montreal music scene together, but Arcade Fire brought Wolf Parade on tour with them during the Funeral era, and Wolf Parade drummer Arlen Thompson even played drums on the studio version of Arcade Fire's "Wake Up." "I'll Believe in Anything" was a fitting choice to close out the trek, a chance for Arcade Fire to pay tribute not just to some close friends, but to the city and scene where it all began.