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wake up (arcade fire at radio city)

Posted on 09 May 2007 by Caryn Rose (0)

My bones and my ears were glad this show was at Radio City, two blocks from work, and not the schlep up and back to 173rd St., but my heart and my spirit probably would’ve been happier uptown.

So I will cut to the chase by stating up front that this show reminded me – stunningly – of a show I attended on May 11, 1983. That night was the night that everyone I knew – and I knew A LOT of people at that show – felt that everything changed for the band in question. I was in the front row (with a broken ankle in a cast – another story for another day) and remember being so focused on the show that I never looked behind me. When I finally did, just as the encore was beginning, every single person in the Palladium (RIP) was on their feet, screaming their lungs out, down to the last person in the last row of the upper balcony (a place I was well familiar with). You felt like anything could happen at any moment. You felt like you were part of some secret revolution that no one else really knew about.

Again, tonight.

I’m sure you are asking yourselves: why did she upload that crappy cell phone video? Well, I shot that sucky video because May 11, 1983 is a show that is burned indelibly into my brain – quite literally, I can close my eyes and still see that moment I turned around to watch the audience behind me – and I believe tonight will also be one of these moments, and I wanted to capture it for posterity, somehow, in some place besides my brain.


I do not pretend to not be late to this party, so I will tell you the things you already know: this will be the last time you see Arcade Fire in a venue this small. You do not write songs that big for tiny rooms (although the irony is that in a tiny room, the show probably seems like a performance art piece and has its own character).

Scatter o’ light earlier this week was talking about being a nerd, being tired of it, and wanting to rock – but that she was headed to see Arcade Fire next. Um, this band rocks, or I would not be here. They rock unashamedly. There is no irony, not when Régine Chassagne sings every word to every song like she’s singing lead vocals. She is a cheerleader for her own band. She plays drums! (I have a total girl-crush on her after tonight.) People are spending a lot of time trying to figure out why people like me (old, jaded, classic rock, etc.) are drawn to Arcade Fire, and for me, at least, it’s because they aren’t up there pretending that they’re not having fun. They SMILE! They run around! They work hard! They don’t pretend that it’s not a performance and that they’re not there to perform.

Arcade Fire played Radio City like it was an underground hardcore house show. The freneticism, the energy, the multi-instrumentality, I hate to say it but the comparison to, say, Springsteen era 75, when a tuba could show up onstage, and there was a Monopoly game onstage so they could say “Yeah, I’m in Doctor Zoom, I play Monopoly” – c’mon, would that kind of theater been that out of place on that stage tonight? Or ever? I don’t think so.

The boyfriend commented earlier tonight that this was the first show he’d been at in a long time that felt dangerous. (I could mock him by pointing out that Dave & Tim solo at Radio City is not where one goes to look for danger, but I will not.) It wasn’t so much danger as anarchy, trying to alter the dynamic, raise the energy, turn it around and back. Win Butler didn’t want people in the aisles to piss off security, he wanted them there to engage the energy from the audience, because as a band they feed off it, it keeps them going. Maybe there are hundreds of new bands out there these days doing that on this scale, but I doubt it.

I avoided Arcade Fire for so long because of all the hype, and now of course the place is full of tourists mixed in with the faithful. And I’m stupid, because the next time I’ll see them will be MSG, and after that, Giants Stadium. They’ll find a way to make it work and show all of us something we never expected.


footnote: The last time I saw a show at Radio City was August 31, 1985. (Points if you can tell me what band I was there to see.) I know, ouch. I was out of the country for a while, and then on the west coast for a while. However, not much has changed: they are still smoking pot in the bathrooms and the security acts like it’s never policed a rock concert before. It was moronic in the extreme on both sides – pick another venue or find a way to let the audience have some energy. If you don’t, you get complete anarchy, and grown adults being marched out of the venue by security for probably doing nothing more than jumping up and down a little too animatedly.

UPDATE: more on the security fracas:
Gowanus Lounge

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