Come ye sick, ye broken, huddled masses. Another shore is calling you, a golden city to the North. It is home already to many of your friends. It is Montreal. Be not afraid. The Arcade Fire, the Canadian quintet (give or take some guests) led by former Texan Win Butler, says “put down your weapons.” Let it all out. We come in peace. We come for your own good.
At the 9:30 club on Sunday, the Arcade Fire showed a sold-out crowd the reason they are on everyone’s best of 2004 list, why they are an indie band who deserve pop-star acclaim, why they are just so damn good. They had something to prove, to prove to all the naysayers who toss around the word “overrated” like ugly little stones of denial. You can’t deny the intensity of an Arcade Fire show.
With such a gorgeously crowded stage and so much action, with every member scuttling around, changing instruments and otherwise wreaking all sorts of havoc onstage, it is no wonder why the sold-out crowd was completely entranced for the hour-plus set.
In between songs everyone fell silent, creating that palpable feeling in the air the band works so hard to create. The band has such presence and what they do with the attention given them is really amazing. At times, it was almost like the fourth wall had been broken down; there was no dividing line between stage and crowd.
One of the highlights to the show was one of the standout tracks from “Funeral,” “Neighborhood #2 (Laika).” This song, one of the most dynamic and intense, featured multi-instrumentalist Richard Parry and lead singer Win Butler’s little brother, Will, who was skipping school at Northwestern to play some dates with the band, on auxiliary percussion. Donning motorcycle helmets and brandishing drum sticks and toy drummers, the duo beat a tattoo on everything they could reach, climbing on to monitors and up the stage with nary a care for their own relative fragility.
Another striking thing about the Arcade Fire’s show was the fact that everyone is so in-step with each other. The members of the band support and complement each other. For some songs, front man Win Butler would sing and throw in guitar stabs every now and then, and all around him the rest of the band held him up, supported him like friends do, like an ever-changing, swirling bed of guitars, bells, accordion and strings. The Arcade Fire is a family, and for one night you were a part of that family. You sang with them (you couldn’t help it), you danced with them (how could you not?) - you were connected. The band’s ability to create that connection is why the Arcade Fire is so special. At the end, as they were processing through the crowd, still leading the last melody of “In the Backseat,” you knew they had beaten the naysayers. It was their victory lap, everyone you know was invited.