Since Arcade Fire debuted in 2004 with Funeral, the Montreal group has been known for their onstage theatrics – the unique ability to put together a huge-room spectacle even when performing in a small club. Their desire to entertain rather than impress an audience, with an earnest exterior and high-stakes lyrics, made them stand out.
Nine years and one Album of the Year Grammy later, Arcade Fire has earned its big-venue-status. At the Tuesday night release party for their fourth album, Reflektor, the band took the stage dozens of feet above the ground at the foot of the Capitol Records building in the epicenter of the entertainment industry, Hollywood.
The location of the show wasn’t just significant because of its scale – with the surrounding streets shut down during L.A.’s rush hour – it was also a reminder of how big Arcade Fire have grown and how small rock music has gotten, where an underdog indie band could emerge as its star. Then there’s the fact that the concept album – popularized by Frank Sinatra around the time the building opened in 1956 – was practically born at this setting. It’s an artform that the group, consisting of married duo Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, along with Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara, have perfected over the years. After opening with “Reflektor,” however, Butler was quick to shout out their independent label: “Merge fucking records.”
Though there wasn’t an elaborate fake stage set-up – unlike at an earlier performance in Brooklyn – Arcade Fire still put a creative twist on a concert, which was hosted by MTV Iggy and Intel’s Music Experiment. This gig was best to watch as far back as possible; with the group performing well off the ground, superfans donning uber-reflective garb at the band’s request – some of whom creatively glued mirror tiles or shattered CDs to their clothes – staked out spots at the end of the crowd. It was there that you could catch the best views of Butler and Chassagne against the overcast night sky, playing atop the metallic fringe-trimmed extension of the Capitol building, which was lit up in a multitude of colors. It was the complete opposite of their show inside the Capitol Records studio the night before, where the band performed at eye-level with the crowd in an intimate room. Last night was more like a block party, with crowds dancing outside on the streets and on the balconies and fire escapes of nearby buildings.
Throughout Arcade Fire’s 75-minute set, there were no signs that Butler’s histrionics and bravado have dulled. The frontman was dressed like a lounge singer in a gold metallic tux jacket, showed off equally flashy moves – hoisting up his guitar like a torch during “We Exist,” to name one – and delivered cheeky banter to the crowd on lines like, “They didn’t make you jump through too many hoops, I hope. That’s okay I know they did.”
Yet Butler’s swagger came across more as sincere geekery than cockiness. He also graciously thanked the crowd every time he spoke, dedicated “Afterlife” to the late Lou Reed with a couple of air kisses to the clouds (and played a snippet of “Satellite of Love” at the tail end of “Supersymmetry”) and took a moment to acknowledge Haiti, home to Chassagne’s parents, which inspired the lush rhythms of Reflektor. “If you ever want to go to the best Carnival in the world take a trip down there in February. It’s mind blowing,” Butler said, introducing “Here Comes the Night Time,” a song inspired by the street music of Haiti, which culminated with a minutes-long bursts of silver confetti. So even if you were one of the few that didn’t arrive dressed as a disco ball, you left with a hint of one.
“It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”
“You Already Know”
“Here Comes the Night Time”
“Supersymmetry”/”Satellite of Love” (Lou Reed cover)
“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
“Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”