I have been to plenty of concerts in my time, I have seen hundreds of bands, yet, of any band to emerge in the last decade or so, no one puts on a show like Arcade Fire. The Canadian ensemble is not your typical band, there is no conventional method to their madness, it is just as free flowing and unique as each individual that comprises the group. The band, who just released their highly anticipated third album, The Suburbs, this week, arrived in New York City for two nights of history and display why they deserve to be one of the best bands touring the world in this day and age.
New York has been the band's home away from home since they arrived at the CMJ Music Marathon in the fall of 2004, playing the tiny Mercury Lounge. Like a wildfire, word spread about them and they took off, opening for the likes of U2 and playing on stage with David Bowie, Arcade Fire was destined for greatness just one record in. In 2007 they released Neon Bible, a record that catapulted them to a broader audience and saw them start off playing small churches in the Lower East Side to two nights at United Palace Theater, Radio City Music Hall and then closing their North American tour right on Randall's Island. New York and Arcade Fire have gone hand in hand for years, so it was only fitting that Madison Square Garden would be where they launch themselves into the abyss of top musical acts. With support from indie favorites, Spoon and Owen Pallett (Pallett, who did the string arrangements on The Suburbs, also joined the band on stage), it was a landmark bill for a landmark night.
Taking the stage just after 10pm on Wednesday night, the first of two gigs at MSG, Arcade Fire's stage was packed yet not as crammed as previous tours, so this was sparse by their standards. Backed by two giant screens, one of a highway that would light up with seasons of the calendar year and placed right in front of that was another screen which resembled an old drive-in movie theater screen which projected images of the band, the crowd and bizarre clips of vintage vaudeville films. Opening with the fitting "Ready to Start," it was just what the crowd and band were feeling. It was a close to two hour tour-de-force set that mainly focused on the new material but they seamlessly worked in heavy hitters from Funeral and Neon Bible, songs like "Rebellion (Lies)," "No Cars Go," "Keep the Car Running" would get the crowd to their feet while the new songs were still sinking in. Singer Win Butler would constantly thank the crowd for their support through the years and mentioning how special New York really is to this band. Win would break down the fourth wall of the crowd many times through the night and jump into the crowd and sing into the faces of the front row. Watching the band on stage is like watching a circus. Win's brother Will, does not stop dancing and jumping around from instrument to instrument and taking a snare drum under his arms and banging on it as if he was the marching band member from hell. Win's wife, Regine Chassagne, who plays drums, accordion, piano and is the co-singer of the band would project her voice like a gospel singer. As brilliant as the band was, there were indeed some hiccups as Win would forget some lyrics, the sound of the first few songs was a bit weak, but it can all be blamed on anxiety and nerves. Things picked up to sheer perfection as the night went on and no one seemed to care of the minor fumbles.
As the night came to a close it would conclude with fan favorite "Wake Up." "Wake Up" is a song that one needs to hear live, at least once, to just experience what it is like to have the crowd sing and chant in unison with the band, experiencing a song like that is like capturing light in a bottle. In fact, being the audience and witnessing Arcade Fire is just like capturing lighting in a bottle, there will be no words to describe how phenomenal this band really is.