Reviews

Arcade Fire

Lou Friedman
Photo by Anders Jensen-Urstad

Though we've reviewed them recently, PopMatters' Lou Friedman takes Arcade Fire on post-record release, and, in keeping with a time-honored tradition, makes a pre-mature pronouncement.

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

City: New York, NY
Venue: Radio City Music Hall
Date: 2007-05-09

Every year, I, your humble reviewer, do this, and every year I get burned. So, in keeping with time-honored tradition, I’m voluntarily throwing my neck back on the chopping block. On May 9th, I witnessed the best concert of 2007 -- never mind the fact I have the Police and Genesis reunions on my calendar, as well as Rush, Z.Z. Top/Pretenders, and Mastodon to look forward to. Forget all that riff-raff. Not to be snarky, but there's a reason that almost every show on the Arcade Fire’s current tour is sold out... they're an amazingly live band. The songs take on a livelier, more upbeat dimension, while the band of merry men (and women) themselves work up a collective frenzy. The band only knows one speed on stage: balls-out. In this show, Arcade Fire hopped across town -- they’d played two previous nights in the newest "it" venue in NYC, the United Palace Theater -- to kick off David Bowie's inaugural High Line Festival. Bowie's goal is to refurbish a stretch of unused elevated rail, creating an raised public space rather than tearing it down. In honor of his cause, he’s mustered up a whole range of musicians -- including the Polyphonic Spree, Deerhoof, and Daniel Johnston. The stage setup was elaborate and eclectic: five vertical poles at the foot turned alternately red and white as the bible logo from the band's Neon Bible CD glowed as if in full bloom at stage left. Five small, circular screens set up in a semi-circle behind the band flashed mostly black and white images of their performance as the curtain behind the stage came to life. Red was the predominant color in background lighting, despite the fact that most of the band’s members were attired in black or grey. Though Arcade Fire claims seven members in its core band, the group trotted out a ten-piece traveling show for Bowie: a second female violinist accompanied regular stringer Sarah Neufeld, and a two-piece brass section added punch. When the lights dimmed, the five mini-screens displayed a female preacher in the midst of a rant (topics included the humorous suggestion that some people need an enema to clear out their brains). After that rather odd introduction, the band took the stage, strapped in, and started the 80-minute ride with a rocking, rollicking version of "Keep the Car Running." The 15-song set (a two-song encore included) was short on neither effort nor entertainment. Though the band was tighter than an Army plebe's bed sheets, it managed to be both intense and playful depending on what the songs required. For his part, Win Butler, the group’s de-facto leader, played the serious one (though, off stage, he's one of the nicest people in the biz). Of course, even he stepped out of his shadow to connect with the Radio City crowd: during "Rebellion (Lies)," the main-set closer, he ventured into the audience and sang the first verse from atop one of the seats. New material from Neon Bible held up well. "The Well and the Lighthouse" is the polar opposite of Funeral's "Wake Up." The former starts off fast and finishes slow, while the latter goes from a crawl to a sprint. "Black Mirror" always had the ghost of Electric Light Orchestra in it; live, the song is a tad heavier. "My Body is a Cage," "Ocean of Noise," "Windowsill" and the rollicking "(Antichrist Television Blues)" were given lush, pumped-up renditions. But it was the classic (two full albums in, and we're talking "classic"?) songs from Funeral that got the biggest rise out of the packed house. In addition to "Haiti" and "In the Backseat," the band laid down a heavy "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)." During "Neighborhood #2 (Laika),” Win's brother used a motorcycle helmet as a drum, pounding away like nobody's business until, suddenly, he leapt from the stage, landed in the aisle, and, after a few running steps, took another leap onto the covered orchestra pit at the front of the Music Hall. Brandishing three drumsticks and the helmet, he pounded like mad, and then threw the first drumstick over his head (his band members have learned how to duck). He broke the second one after hitting the helmet too fiercely, and carried the last one back on stage as the song continued. The main-set closing duo of "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" and "Rebellion (Lies)" was as powerful and intense a twin killing as I've ever seen in my 30 years and 700 concerts. The encore of "Intervention" and "Wake Up" followed -- a nice nightcap to the proceedings. Again, I can't say enough about how tight the band was on stage. Win Butler's vocals were a bit lost in the mix at times, but that is a minor quibble. His wife, Régine Chassagne, ran through several instruments -- from keys to accordion to a drum kit -- and her vocals on "Haiti" and "In the Backseat" were simply transcendent. Richard Reed Parry (aka Napoleon Dynamite’s long-lost twin) shined on everything from guitar to xylophone, and Tim Kingsbury's bass and Jeremy Gara's drum work served as a solid anchor. Even if you don't get a chance to see them on this tour, make sure you're armed and loaded the next time Arcade Fire hits the road. Dare I say they're right up there with current concert legends U2 and Radiohead for the best live show in rock? Even in the face of premature past predictions, I dare. Oh yes, I dare.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image