When I set out to post a proper review of the Arcade Fire’s show at the 9:30 club last night, I quickly found that it’s all been said before.
Their live shows have been described in terms of what they do to their audiences: PopMatters said that they lifted the crowd to a state of “pure, atomic joy,” and Walter Riley, of the Dallas Music Guide, echoed so many comments left on bloggers’ concert reviews: I felt as though something truly special had occurred. People speak of their performances in religious terms such as "rapturous" or "transcending." One look at my face or any of the other faces leaving the 9:30 last night, and you would wonder what holy spectacle you just missed.
The live performances and their album differ mainly in intensity. Take all of the tension and heartbreak of Funeral. Multiply by 50. That’s their live show. If the album lifted you, the band will make you spasmodic with their ebullient attack on their instruments, perhaps with an unexpected screeching violin or a drummed motorcycle helmet. And I’m not talking about any one song. I’m talking about ALL of them. All of the time. It’s sick. If the album saddens you, their live performance will leave you weeping, with moments such as Regine Chassagne’s passionate contortionism as she sings “My family tree’s/been losing all its leaves” and “Alice died/in the night.” Funeral touches you; the performance penetrates you, and while it lifts you to soaring heights, it pierces your heart.
If you’ve seen this band live, you know how hard it is to say something intelligible immediately following a show. They leave you speechless. Hell, after their high-strung performance of “In the Back Seat,” they left themselves speechless, drained, and nearly in tears. Lead singer Win Butler smartly said good night and thanked the audience for coming before playing the song, which reaches a plateau that the album version doesn’t even hint at. The band left the stage and roamed around the club like ghosts haunting a dance hall.
I don’t have a setlist. They opened with “Wake Up,” played everything from Funeral, closed with “In the Back Seat,” and threw in a new song called “Intervention.” The likeable Win Butler owned the crowd with light conversation, but the music reigned. Times 50.
While waiting in line outside the club, I gave an extra ticket I had to a young couple in need, in exchange for a beer. It might have been the best thing I ever gave anyone.