The Arcade Fire do earnest in a big way and big in an earnest way, so it should come as no surprise that their lavish indie-rock anthems turn out to be a good fit for stadium-sized venues. Fresh off of their triumphant two night stand at Madison Square Garden, the band had little trouble tackling the 20,000 capacity Merriweather Post Pavilion (insert Animal Collective joke here) just outside of Washington D.C. on Friday night. Technical nitpicks aside (the vocals, especially Régine Chassagne’s, were often flat and a drum machine malfunction stopped a song dead in its tracks for the second night in a row), the band’s rousing, instrument-swapping set had everyone from the middle aged parents up front to the underage drinkers on the lawn yelling, dancing and singing along. Though the band did its best to stay on message—both by maintaining a dead serious demeanor throughout the course of the show and projecting stock footage of suburban sprawl behind them—by the end of the night, it was clear that any agenda that the Arcade Fire had brought to the stage had been swallowed up by the sheer spectacle of seven musicians firing on all cylinders.
Opening act Spoon, unfortunately, failed to elicit a similarly ecstatic response from the crowd, their taut, minimalist brand of rock ‘n’ roll translating not nearly as well in an open air amphitheater setting. They might just be the best live rock band in America but theirs is a sound best enjoyed in an enclosed space, where every last nuance can be savored. Despite this fact, the band gave it their all, employing a horn section to spectacular effect and pulling out an unlikely cover of Wolf Parade’s “Modern World”. And while their set might not have resonated as strongly as the Arcade Fire’s, the members of Spoon looked to be having a lot more fun on stage than Win Butler and his cohorts would ever dare.
The Arcade Fire