Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arcade Fire @ DAR Constitution Hall

GL: OK, not to brag here, but GH and myself first saw the Arcade Fire on their initial US tour after releasing Funeral. With about 70 other people. And we got tickets at the door. For 10 bucks. The show was to this day one of the most fun concert-going experiences I've ever had. At the time I wasn't really all too familiar with the album, but I had heard some good things and, never being one to pass up a good time, I made the trip from Northfield, MN to Champaign, IL with GH in his white Volvo station wagon. The ride down was nearly as epic as the concert itself as we played one of the most prolific games of Rock n Roll Alphabet the Midwest has ever seen. Unfortunately, this also caused us to miss our exit three times over, but whatever.

The show that night was amazing, they played Funeral in its entirety (or very nearly), banged on a bunch of shit, and generally entertained the pants off every attendee. I was very impressed and very happy. I've probably listened to Funeral, like every other self-respecting indie popper, about a thousand times since. Years have passed and the Arcade Fire are now the biggest indie band in the world. As such, when I heard they were coming to DC, I didn't even think about trying to get tickets. Perhaps I was jaded or just plain old lazy, but I was pretty positive it would sell out in like half a second. Apparently it took 5 minutes, but all the same. GH somehow snagged a pair, but I had none. That is until my friend, the beautiful, lovely, gracious, and wonderful "SG" told me that she could not use her ticket and gave it to me. I was pumped.

DAR is a pretty cool place, a nice old hall/theatre type deal with a big stage and tons of seats. I thought the sound was great too, though I've heard reports to the contrary. The National opened up and though we only caught the last 6 songs or so, I really enjoyed them. They played a couple new ones, but "Abel" and "Mr. November" were exceptional (and the only ones I recognized). Then it was time for Arcade Fire. Besides a few more members (seriously, wtf?) and a cool stage setup, not much had changed since the last time we saw them. They still traded instruments like unwanted baseball cards, banged on whatever they could find, and sang and played impassioned indie rock songs with unparalleled energy. In a word: awesome.

The setlist was a good mix of both Funeral and Neon Bible songs as to be expected, and while my personal favorites from the night, "Neighborhood #2" and "Wake Up" were both from the former, I was very impressed with "Windowsill" and "Intervention". The songs off the new album retained their dark and brooding nature and felt very at home in a big room like the DAR hall. The big room really seemed to suit them well I thought, though if they keep adding members they may be playing the Verizon Center next...

Needless to say, I had a blast. GH, what are your thoughts? Are the Arcade Fire the U2 of indie rock?

GH: Yes sir, they certainly are, and the coronation is set for this summer, location TBA. GL gave you all the good background stories from our previous Arcade Fire experience (wait...HA...he forgot one: they covered the Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" that night), so I'll just focus on this time around. They were, in my opinion, truly excellent. They've gotten bigger, bolder, and, while I have no idea where this huge stage budget came from, it makes for the best live experience in indie rock. It's the first time in a long time that I've felt a real buzzing anticipation in the crowd just before they took the stage, and, honestly, it was really refreshing to feel that after so many shows where you're just there to "check them out" and "see what their live show is like." As far as the music was concerned, it was especially nice to hear the weirder, slower tracks of Neon Bible in concert, especially the way the title track faded then came back for an a capella reprise. My girlfriend also now loves Win Butler for some reason -- I think she used the term "cute" but that's just because she hasn't seen the lyric sheet to "(Antichrist Television Blues)" yet (which they did not play). For those of us on the floor, the best moment came when Butler defied security and instructed everyone to move out of their seats and get as close as possible. It made for a really great atmosphere around the stage, and seemed to push the band to a new level for the last half of the show.

Let's see, what else? I did think some of the tunes off Funeral weren't quite as poignant as they used to be, but "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Neighborhood #1" were still highlights. I loved "Windowsill" and I love the mandolin/apocalyptic bounce of "Keep the Car Running", both from Bible. One other thing I did notice was that they split the stage up, males on one side, females on the other. I know this probably has something to do with what instruments go where, and Regine Chassagne's move to the drums did mess up that arrangement. But I'll stand by the theory that it creates this sort of familial, gender-divide feel up there, and a lot of the time that's what they're singing about. If you think I'm full of it, just send me an email and we can discuss more at length. The band came back from the encore and did a rousing rendition of "Intervention". Butler looked like his voice was struggling, but the other bandmates coerced him into doing one more -- "Wake Up", always a fan favorite. It wasn't the best song of the night, but it's always good to save your catchiest, most immediate song for last, and end a spectacular evening on a sure-fire high note.

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