Anthemic indie rockers exceed audience expectations
Before the start of The Arcade Fire’s concert on Saturday, Sept 25 at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon I noticed an elderly, white-haired man in a black hoodie slowly pass by my friends and me. I paid little heed to who I thought was simply another centre employee – possibly a security guard.
Several minutes later, I noticed that the man wasn’t some old codger charged with supervising the show, earplugs firmly in place, but was a devoted fan of the band. His black sleeves were emblazoned with the open-book cover design of the band’s sophomore record, Neon Bible.
The effect of the band’s 18-song set can’t be any more succinctly summed-up than by this simple of image of two distinctly different people – myself and the man – brought together to celebrate the unprecedented success of the Montreal seven-piece band.
The Arcade Fire opened their show with their crowd favorite, “Wake Up,” from 2004’s Funeral. During the song, bright soft-toned lights shone out onto the crowd.
A large screen behind the band was used from the second song, “Ready to Start,” until the concert’s finale. The screen visually complemented the music, distorting and overlaying images of the band filmed at different angles and using different color-schemes.
During “Haiti,” treated images of palm-trees against a blue sky appeared onscreen, and the synchronized swimmers from Neon Bible’s album artwork made an appearance during “No Cars Go.” The swimmers were eerily looped, twitching and touching their faces during the verses, and made to holler during the song’s anthemic chorus.
The title cut from The Suburbs featured visuals portraying a group of suburban teens. Regine Chassagne, Butler’s wife and female lead vocalist, adorned in a sequined dress, twirled with streamers during the disco-tinged “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” Meanwhile, Win tried to crowdsurf during her verses.
Unexpectedly, “Ocean of Noise” from Neon Bible featured horn accompaniment from two of Calexico’s members, who had opened the show.
“Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” brought with it an aggressive energy and a strobe-lit breakdown during multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry’s guitar figure. The song eventually devolved into several minutes of guitar squall before the memorable bass line of “Rebellion (Lies)” emerged, signaling that the crowd was in for something especially anthemic.
The band’s encore ended the concert climactically with a dramatic switching off of the stage’s lights in time with the song’s last drum hit. Following this was the opening cut of Funeral, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” which featured visuals of the band performing as images of falling snow were overlaid on them.
The concert was – wait for it – anthemic. I wish I could have seen my elderly friend swaying along in his seat somewhere in the ocean of glowing people.