Saturday, October 2nd, 2004
I figure there were two types of people at last night’s Arcade Fire show – the long-time acolytes who’ve been following the band since they were playing much smaller rooms and peoples’ living rooms and the newcomers roped in by the unprecedented hype behind their debut album Funeral. And then I guess there was a third demographic of people like myself for whom the Arcade Fire has been on my radar for a while but I hadn’t made it to any of their local shows in the past year for whatever reason (and there’ve been quite a few opportunities). Regadless, last night’s super-sold out show could have qualified as a coming out party for the band as they’ve gone from well-kept secret to international superstars (in a very very relative sense) almost overnight.
Opening was extended family band Bell Orchestre, the outfit that supplied two of Arcade Fire’s members – multi-instrumentalist Richard Parry and violinist Sarah Neufeld. Another six-piece outfit, they played a set of instrumental pieces that ranged from dull (the jammier numbers – jam bands with French horns are as boring as the guitar ones) to sublime (the properly arranged songs were very very good). A very appropriate warm-up for the Fire.
I admit I had some question as to whether or not they could live up to their fearsome live reputation – I’ve heard many tales of jaded indie veterans who’ve walked away from their shows as if they’d just been on a road to Damascus. So what’s the verdict after my first Arcade Fire show? Yeah. Just, yeah. That was great. However, instead of trying to put into words the intangible essence of their performance, I will try to analytically dissect exactly what it is about the show that made it so great:
1) A kick drum that could punch a hole through a tanker truck. Listening to the album now, the drums sound disappointingly small by comparison. Live, the percussion could have propelled an SUV into the lower atmosphere, especially when Richard Parry strapped on the marching band drum and added back-cracking accents to the beat. It’s hard to not be moved when you’re physically being moved.
2) Choral vocals. When everyone on stage sings out with every ounce of energy, whether they have a mic or not, the audience can’t help but feed off that and sing with them – then you’ve got this big singing energy feedback thing going on that could well make your head explode if it went on long enough. Applying these to easy-to-sing-along-with vocal lines like “HEY!” and “AAAAAHHHHH!” help matters. It’s amazing the difference in delivery when it seems like someone is singing along because the music demands it.
3) Dancing like a dervish. All six band members moved like they were possessed by the music, that instead of playing it they were releasing it through their instruments and their bodies. Sound corny? Maybe, but it’s true. See previous point about head-exploding energy feedback with the audience.
4) Huge, anthemic, intense, raw, emotionally cathartic songs played with unbridled energy and passion. I think these are key.
5) Matching stage outfits. Very natty.
I’d have a hard time believing anyone at the show last night didn’t walk out of there either converted or having their entire belief system (as applied to music) reinforced. Hell, as good as Funeral is, it still doesn’t capture the power of the live show. They sounded massive without necessarily being overly-loud, I didn’t even need my earplugs. I feel a little bad about adding to the mountain of hyperbole that’s already built up around the band, but it’s warranted. Believe the hype.
It was also neat running into a whole bunch of people I hadn’t necessarily expected to see – I guess the show really was the place to be. In addition to Graig, Carla, Rannie, Garry and a bunch of 20Hz-ers, I met Travis from tbonedotcom. That ‘How to go to concerts alone’ thing I posted earlier this week? This was not one of those nights.
And, of course, there are photos.
Confirmed – Luna at Lee’s Palace, November 7. So I was wrong about both the date and venue but you know what? Don’t care. This is going to be so good – two Luna shows in a week. Here I was worried that I’d miss them when I went to Chicago, and instead they’re following me! Soooo good.
Reunion updates – The Son Volt webcam did not go live yesterday. The official word is “Due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts, the session has been postponed,” but Left Of The Dial has information that the entire reunion is off. Let’s hope he’s wrong. Encouraging is the fact that the webcam page has gone from a 404 not found to a ‘proper’ page compelte with Java applets. More encouraging news from The Wedding Present camp – the new album is called More Fountain and will be out in 2005, not this Fall as originally hoped. It will, however, be preceded by a single – “Interstate 5” – which IS coming out this Fall. That’s good enough, I guess.
This is neat – a Lake Holiday track has made it onto CBC Radio 3’s playlist for this week. If you load up the playlist for this week’s issue, you’ll see our “American Summer” as the third track in their streaming audio soundtrack. Very cool. Thanks to Garry for the heads up.
np – Arcade Fire / Funeral