My blogroll-ed friend Ted Reinert badgered me into going to this show and I’m glad he did. I had seen the Arcade Fire and their awesome openers Spoon twice each and didn’t expect much from either this time around. Both bands put on better shows than I thought were possible.
UPDATE: After many, many posts and articles for MIL, this is my first piece to rise to the top of the Most Popular list! Literary folks love the Arcade Fire.
“How are the people on the hill doing?” asked Win Butler, Arcade Fire’s lead vocalist, of the fans crammed onto the sprawling lawn behind the Merriweather Post Pavilion amphitheatre in Maryland. “That’s where I’d be,” he announced proudly. Before launching into the encore, he shared a story from his suburban Houston childhood: as an usher at an outdoor venue in Texas (not unlike the 16,500-person space he was now headlining), he would turn a blind eye to eager fans from the cheap seats sneaking down to the stage.
Experiences like these colour the band’s third album, “The Suburbs”. Most of Arcade Fire is native to cosmopolitan Montreal—the adopted hometown of Win Butler and his bandmate and brother William—yet the new record sounds like it came straight out of the American rust belt: “Some cities make you lose your head/Endless suburbs stretched out thin and dead/And what was that line you said/Wishing you were anywhere but here/You watch the life you’re living disappear.” Butler delivers these lines on “Wasted Hours”, a song that echoes the Midwestern malaise of The Replacements, who first proclaimed that “Anywhere’s Better Than Here”.
Even the stage was set up to evoke the claustrophobic sprawl of middle America: a lone streetlight was visible in the rear left of the backdrop, with an image of cracked pavement and a bridge overpass enveloping all eight members of the touring band. A giant billboard, which doubled as a video screen and lighting display, rose out of the rear centre of the stage, tying the suburban motif together.
I first saw the Arcade Fire six years ago in the Midwest.
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Photo credit: NRK P3 (via Flickr)