Concert Review: Arcade Fire as the Reflektors, 299 Meserole Street, 19 October 2013
This was, quite simply, a fantastic show. The performance was tight but still full of life and energy. The band was in excellent spirits. And most importantly, the songs are not only ready to play live, they are so much better in person than they were on SNL or that 30-minute aftershow. I walked out thinking, “Wow, now I am excited for the album” as well as, “Wow, that TV special did not do them any favors.” The difference, at least to me, was night and day. There is a depth and a intricacy to the new songs that just did not come across in the compression of television sound, but is very much there live, even in a concrete warehouse with absolutely zero acoustics. (Disclaimer: I was right next to the speaker stacks so I cannot speak to how it sounded if you were back at the bar or the soundboard.)
Night two, the band seemed to be ready to dispense with surprises or unnecessary theatrics; there was no fake stage, no false intro, just an intro from a masked James Murphy, poking his head through the curtain and then the dramatic reveal as the band began to play and the curtain came down on the performance of “Reflektor.” (Curtains are awesome things and I wish more bands would take the trouble to bring that back; there’s a mystery and a magic and an elegance that the reveal of a curtain coming down brings that’s much different than just lights on.)
The stage is white and where it’s not white, there’s a mirror or other reflective surface. The accents are red and ultraviolet and blue and silver. There were triangular beaded curtains as a backdrop behind the platforms where the new percussionists were located. Will Butler sported red suede shoes; Regine was adorned in silver beaded fringe; Win was rocking a gold lamé jacket and some kind of amazing black tie-dye/camouflage combo. I respected that Win kept his jacket on all night, heat be damned–it was so hot that by the end of the 12-song set, there was condensation dripping from the pipes on the ceiling closest to the stage–while Richard Reed Parry ditched his jacket after the first song. (Win did jettison the mask meant to replicate his Stipe-ian raccoon eyes after song one, however.)
Every single song was stronger, richer, more interesting than it was on TV. “Reflektor” was greeted like it was an old familiar friend. I loved “Joan of Arc”. “Normal Person” was a steam roller. “We Exist” was a total dance party–when the first group of 100 or so fans was let in, they held the rest of the crowd back while a choreographer taught us some dance moves. (It was a fun idea and I would’ve totally been into it during the show had it not been jam packed like sardines in a schvitz; some people tried but mostly the concept failed in this setting.) The crowd screamed en masse during Regine’s “Sprawl” ribbon dance. And finally, Win suggested that if you hadn’t unbuttoned your top button yet, now might be the time, a minor white riot broke out during “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”.
On the negative side: the show was too short for the ticket price (but two songs longer than the previous night, with an actual encore). The comment Win made from the stage about scalpers–well, that could have been solved if they’d made the tickets will-call only, but that would have required playing an actual venue with staffing and infrastructure. It’s a cool idea to have a show at a warehouse space in Bushwick, but when you have to truck in a massive generator, security, and have no bathrooms (porta-johns only), running water or ventilation, I have to start to question how cool it ultimately is for the people who actually attended it. Like, I dig the gesture and the intention but think the execution was only about 2/3 of the way there. I’m ultimately very glad I was there and they definitely tried to make it as cool of an experience as you can when your band is already arena-sized. I am looking forward to seeing how they take this show onto a big stage.
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Tags: arcade fire