Wednesday, Sept. 29
15 minutes before Arcade Fire took the KeyArena stage on Wednesday night, two men bellied up to>"/>
KeyArena Wednesday, Sept. 29
Wednesday, Sept. 29
15 minutes before Arcade Fire took the KeyArena stage on Wednesday night, two men bellied up to a pair of urinals, unzipped, and started discussing the cups of beer that got them there. "How do I know if this cup is compostable or recyclable?" one man asked his friend.
90 minutes later, just before the Montreal-based kings and queens of Stateside indie rock wrapped up their set, frontman Win Butler announced that the night's show was particularly special because a dollar from every ticket sold was going to Partners In Health, a non-profit benefiting relief work in Haiti. The audience responded to this proclamation with loud cheers of self-congratulation.
Arcade Fire is the largest musical component of a movement that far transcends notes on a keyboard and strings on a guitar. It's a movement -- or at least a following -- of "Modern Kids," to borrow a Butler term, that wants to know that their beef was happy before it was slaughtered, that cares that the cup they drank their Bud Light from meets an appropriate afterlife, and that wants to feel as though they're not acting selfishly by purchasing a ticket to a rock concert, but are donating part of their disposable income to help the homeless and the hungry. That Arcade Fire is playing--if not coming close to filling--arenas is as much an indication of the growth of the movement as it is the growth of a fanbase specific to the band. At least in this town.
There are few bands on the road today that match the emotional intensity of Arcade Fire, a fact that was demonstrated the moment they opened up with "Ready to Start." All eight members--constantly rotating among instruments like drums (there were two sets), tambourine, keyboard, violin, and organ--behaved as though they'd just been tapped to play Santa in the wings during a Flaming Lips concert, and were on stage in uniform for the first time. At times it's exhilarating. At others, you pick up a taste of overacting.
Like on record -- including their latest social stinger, The Suburbs--AF's songs build with anxiety to cinematic levels and climactic finishes. But while the songs on record are pieced together into a seamless opus, with one exception, the octet followed each song Wednesday night with an uncomfortable break; to tune, change positions, and swap instruments. There were no strategic transitions to speak of, and all momentum was diffused between cuts.
Still, the corps certainly hasn't lost their flare for showmanship, or their knack for melodrama. Favorites like "Wake Up" and "Rebellion (Lies)" had the crowd chanting and clapping along. They can still nail their old standbys, but the show felt a lot like a club set, only without the warmth and intimacy that four tight walls and a bar can provide. The band is still learning how to play the new songs, and adapt to their surroundings.
The sooner they realize that folks don't show up at arena show to listen to the eccentricities of a guitar line or to pick at the sour notes from the mandolin, they sooner they can get started on sharpening their set for larger rooms. Arena shows are tribal gatherings. They're meant for maximum sensory overload, singalongs, and, in Seattle, plenty of standing still and folding of arms.
"For the birthplace of grunge," Butler noted at one point, "you're pretty fucking polite."
Polite enough to recycle. And compost, too.
Personal Bias: I two quarter pounders from McDonalds before the show. Wish I'd had a third.
BTW: When Butler sang, "Now the kids are all standing with their arms folded tight," during "Month of May," I looked down and noticed that, yes, my arms were indeed folded tight.
Ready to Start
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
Neighborhood 2 - Laika
No Cars Go
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Ocean of Noise
We Used to Wait
Laura Musselman Laura Musselman