Welcome Home, Arcade Fire
By Courtney Morgan Rodriguez
This past Saturday, I was one of nearly 35,000 who descended on Montreal’s Parc Jean Drapeau to see Arcade Fire close out their Reflektor tour to a hometown crowd.
At the risk of sounding like a complete fangirl, this would be my seventh Arcade Fire show and my second of theirs at Jean Drapeau, where I saw them headline the 2010 edition of Osheaga. I bought my ticket for Saturday after seeing them in Ottawa last March. I even witnessed them open for Bruce Springsteen in Ottawa in 2007, explaining who they were to my parents when Bruce invited them back to cover “Keep The Car Running”.
I had missed the ball on the fancy-attire-or-costume dress code for the Ottawa show and wouldn’t make that mistake in Montreal. If I had doubts of being the sole jackass who would arrive dressed up, they were quickly squashed when I got near the entrance. There was plumage, recycled prom dresses, glitter and face paint, top hats, masks, and one walking pickle with the most blasé expression on his face that completely won my heart. There were some people that would leave you unsure they were sporting costume or real-life attire (I’m looking at you, powder blue suit guy with the New Balance sneakers). People showed up, ready to let their freak flags fly.
But when it comes to freak flags, nobody flies them better than Arcade Fire. They bounced onto the stage in outfits I can only describe as Saturday Night Fever meets graffiti glow paint meets Caribana meets urban cowboy, and pulled off every stitch and inch of them. While their enthusiasm in Ottawa was palpable, it was downright infectious in Montreal. Close-ups of their faces on the big screens showed them absolutely ecstatic to be home at the end of a worldwide tour.
Things got started with a rowdy rendition of “Reflektor” before immediately launching into encore-friendly hits “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Neighbourhood #3”. I watched heads exploded left, right and centre. These songs? Already? So soon? We knew then it was gonna be a good party.
Arcade Fire’s Reflektor tour has now featured 68 songs, including 35 covers. While the songs in Ottawa were more Reflektor-heavy (from what I recall), the setlist on Saturday was a balance of their best from all albums, almost like they had saved their favourite blend of tracks for last.
The crowd ate up every note. The song that started it all – Funeral’s “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)” – started playing mid-show and I saw grown-ass men, including Matías of Ottawa Showbox, nearly shed a tear. I kept my cool (sort of) until Régine Chassagne took centre stage for “Haïti” and later “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, where I turned to Matías and Nick, exclaiming “She’s just so (insert expletive here) cute!” “Normal Person” kicked off the encore. Wolf Parade’s “I’ll Believe In Anything” was the night’s cover of choice; the band then launched into “Here Comes The Night Time” to warm up the last of our summer nights, and wrapped it up with the anthemic “Wake Up”.
It was during “Normal Person” that I started thinking about the scathing Washington Post editorial that came out on October 28, 2013, coinciding with Reflektor’s album release and calling them “gigantic dorks with boring sex lives”.
The thing about Arcade Fire is – they are who they are. Sure, no album really sounds the same. They dabble in genres – Disco! Reggae! Late-pop-eighties! – and throw in some Caribbean steelpan drums while they’re at it. They get Spiderman actor Andrew Garfield to portray a transgender person in the video for “We Exist” to the offense of many, including Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace. And they’re unapologetic.When the dress code they issued for Reflektor gigs was met with some backlash, the band issued a brief statement telling fans to “please relax” and the code was “super not mandatory”, with Win Butler telling London concertgoers last November he wasn’t sorry for “anyone who felt uncomfortable dressing up”.
Watching them rock out on Saturday had me wishing I were a part of the phenomenon happening onstage, one of the so-called gigantic dorks. In a crowd of 35,000, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
You keep doing you, Arcade Fire, because none of us in that crowd on Saturday would have wanted it any different. Welcome home.
“Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”
“Joan Of Arc”
“Ready To Start”
“Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
“Keep The Car Running”
“No Cars Go”
“It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”
“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
“I’ll Believe In Anything” (Wolf Parade cover)
“Here Comes The Night Time”
Ottawa Showbox’s Favourite Canadian Albums of 2013
These days there is so much music out there in the universe, it feels overwhelming sometimes. A lot of bloggers spend hours per day sifting through countless Bandcamps and Soundcloud accounts trying to find the next big thing. We are not those bloggers. We love new music and will usually give an album a listen if there’s a buzz about it, just to see what the big deal is all about. We don’t, however, claim to be the authority on breaking new bands across Canada or the world. Our purpose and drive is centred locally, and our passion really is seeing music live. For lack of a better cliche, music is the soundtrack to the lives of Matias, Eric, and Joe. We’re the kind of people that feel weird when there’s silence, and usually have music playing in some way or another at all times. None of us would claim to have listened to all albums that were released this year, nor would we claim that this list is exhaustive or exclusive in any way.