Featured Image Source: Adam McCullough
Awe-inspiring. Breathtaking. Triumphant.
Arcade Fire put on unforgettable shows around the globe almost as a matter of routine these days, but even by their own faultless standards, this one was pretty damn special. It was clear from the moment they set foot on stage, that this wasn’t just another date on the tour. It isn’t their first time playing New York’s historic Madison Square Garden but it clearly still meant a lot to them to be doing so, and they made sure that everybody watching knew.
A mesmerising light show, a stage packed with top class musicians possessing an almost overwhelming stage presence, band members spilling into the crowd on multiple occasions and an atmosphere to give you goosebumps. This gig really did have everything you could want from a big arena show. Although the gig didn’t sell out, (with some empty seats dotted around the arena and sparse looking patches on the floor), anyone in the arena could count themselves lucky to be there that night.
New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band opened with a short performance before main support act Grandmaster Flash, whose set was a shade disappointing. His time on stage was severely reduced after a technical fault delayed the start of his set. The platinum record selling hip-hop DJ, with origins from the Bronx area of New York, received a grand introduction over the speakers, however it would be another twenty minutes before we would see him on stage. When he arrived, he drifted away from his hip-hop origins to play a set more oriented to the rock crowd which ultimately fell a tad flat. This short set wasn’t his finest hour.
It very much was the finest hour of Arcade Fire though. From the moment the show started it seemed evident that this was going to be a memorable night. Perhaps paying homage to The Garden’s legacy of hosting big boxing bouts, they were introduced over the speakers in the style of a ring announcer, describing them as the main event and reading out their three Grammy awards like they were championship reigns. The big screen shown them walking to the stage through the crowd with “Live From New York” displayed in the corner, and across the bottom displayed band members’ stats such as their “win/loss record”, “zodiac sign” and “haircut”, while the intro to the new album played in the background to serve as entrance music. The stage itself was made to look like a boxing ring, it even had ring ropes, with “Everything Now” printed on them, and Win Butler held up a ring bell and hit it multiple times just before they started playing. That’s some effort just for an entrance, so you can only image how much went into the rest of the show. As their “entrance music” reached a crescendo, they burst into the lead single from the new album “Everything Now”, providing them with their first chance of the night to take in The Garden’s atmosphere.
They then played the second track from the album “Signs of Life” before going back to the terrific “Rebellion (Lies)” from their first album, during which Will Butler stepped through the ropes and ran towards each of the four surrounding barriers, leaning into fans’ grasp, all while bashing the life out of the drum hanging around his neck. It wasn’t the only time band members ventured off stage either. Later in the show, Win sang the majority of “We Don’t Deserve Love” from the crowd, and during “Reflektor”, Regine strayed so far into the crowd she ended up dancing within a circle of fans.
“Here Comes The Night Time” follows Rebellion, and the ring ropes disappear before they move on to “Haiti”, as an already packed stage becomes even more vibrant, with the addition of Haitian dancers performing during the song. There’s then a short break, as Win takes time to put into words what it means for his band to be playing the prestigious venue. Simply put, it’s a lot, and it’s made evident during “No Cars Go”, one of the premier songs within their repertoire.
Tracks from “Everything Now” featured heavily. “Electric Blue”, “Put Your Money On Me”, “Infinite Content” and “Creature Comfort” all made an appearance, but with welcome receptions. They were played alongside some of the cream of their back catalogue, “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “Neighbourhood 3 (Power Out)” from debut album “Funeral” are played as well as “Ready to Start” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” from “The Suburbs”.
“Neon Bible” was a sight to behold as well. The crowd serenaded the band throughout the delicate tune as they sang along, and lit up the stage with the lights on their phones. It was another goosebumps moment for the band and everyone in the arena to take in, one which Win thanked the crowd for, however it certainly wouldn’t be the last one of the night.
They also hit on a serious note as well. The Woodlands, Texas, (Win and Will Butler’s hometown) was one of the areas affected by hurricane Harvey less than a month prior to the show, with some areas being significantly flooded, and still recovering. The fact that they chose to play on the tour over staying at home during a crisis is a testament to how much they value their career. Nevertheless, it was a sobering thought that while thousands in the arena were having the time of their lives, the lives of thousands more in Texas were still in ruins. It was to them whom Win then dedicated “The Suburbs” to. Throughout the song, as the crowds singing rang around the arena, the LED boards around the arena displayed a website through which donations to those suffering could be made.
The standout moment of the gig however come from it’s finish. They played a stripped back, slowed down version of Everything Now (which can be found at the end of the album) to warm up the crowd, before being re-joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for their outstanding hit, “Wake Up”. Hearing close to twenty thousand people singing their hearts out to such a magnificent piece of music was almost enough to bring a tear to the eye, if you’re not in the slightest bit moved by it, you should probably check your pulse.
It didn’t end there either. In fact, it never seemingly did end. As the lights came up, the band left the stage the way they entered it; through the crowd. The band were played off by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who continued the song as they walked through a line of fans, as voices singing Wake Up continued to reverberate around the arena. With all this still going on, Win picked up a mic, and broke into “Stand By Me” while they slowly edged towards the exit, to conclude a live music masterclass.
Voices singing Wake Up kept echoing through the halls and stairwells as the crowd filtered out the arena. The party even kept on going in the subway station, where the Preservation Hall Jazz band had set up shop, and were still playing, with crowds formed around them still singing Wake Up.
It felt like the gig never really ended, which is something you want from a gig that leaves you with such a massive buzz. The lights and special effects helped this feel like a huge show, helped by the fact the stage was packed with musicians emitting buckets of energy, that never relented for two hours. Most of the band appear multi-talented as well. You’d be able to see many jump between instruments between songs. Win went from playing a guitar, to a bass, to a keyboard. Jeremy Gara, spent most of the set on the drums, but once traded his drum kit for a guitar, and Regine seemed to play just about every instrument under the sun. She was even playing wine bottles with a spoon at one point.
If seeing Arcade Fire live isn’t already on your bucket list, this gig shows that it’s something that you should seriously look at pencilling in.
Let us know if you were lucky enough to be at this gig, and if so what your favourite part was, and please like and share if you enjoyed the article. We’ll love you for it.