The Arcade Fire: photo by Michael Ligon
Update[June 17/2010, 3:00 pm]: Review now up.
Given the amount of shows I've been to, of course I'm bound to miss something. There aren't many shows that I regret not seeing because in the grand scheme of life, a missed show is miniscule. To go all High Fidelity, sometimes it's fun to make a list of all the shows/bands you didn't see or get to see. On the list I'd for example put The Smiths when they played Canada's Wonderland's Kingswood Theatre in the eighties, Wilco at the Horseshoe Tavern in 1995, and New Order when they played the CNE in 1987. Those were all shows I had a realistic opportunity of going but for one reason or another, such as lack of money or transportation, could not go. More recently, a band that I'd put on that list would be The Arcade Fire who played a two night stint at Massey Hall in May 2007 but I ultimately did not end up getting tickets for either show. I clearly recall trying to get four tickets for the first show through Ticketmaster.ca the morning the shows went on sale but got failed miserably as tickets sold out quicker than expected. Had I tried to purchase a single ticket instead I probably would have been successful. As to the second show in May 2007 I do not have any recollection of trying to get tickets; if I had to guess I probably was at work and forgot that tickets went onsale.
Alas, the last time I'd seen Arcade Fire live was on April 27, 2005 at the Danforth Music Hall so when tickets went onsale for the band's long-awaited return to Toronto scheduled for Olympic Island on August 14, I jumped on purchasing a ticket. But as a bonus to Toronto fans, the band announced last-minute through Twitter at the beginning of last week that they'd be playing two shows in Toronto and after that the Twitter feeds were abuzz. By Wednesday of last week the official announcement had been released that the band would make a return to Danforth Music Hall (now just called The Music Hall) for two shows on June 11 and 12 with tickets going onsale at The Music Hall box office at noon the day of the show and with only one ticket being permitted to be bought by each person. It was serendipitous that I was off work on June 11 and with that on my side I lined up at the box office that morning, waited for about two and half hours and eventually got my wristband for that night.
I've been easing myself back into concert-going since the beginning of the month and the passing of my mother first with The National show at Massey Hall on June 8. The Arcade Fire show, unplanned and spontaneous as it was, came at a time that I was glad to be present for and it ended up being very much therapeutic. I scored a second row, stage right seat for The Arcade Fire show even though I arrived later than expected to an already bustling crowd onhand. But as with The National show earlier that week, once the show got going, the first few rows made a beeline to the front of the stage, and of course I followed. Joining the 7-person core membership was fellow Montrealer, Marika Anthony-Shaw of the band Silver Starling on viola, apparently having played with The Arcade Fire during their Neon Bible tour. With the band dressed up in a utilitarian look filtered through an indie sensibility, and lead vocalist/songwriter Win Butler sporting a updated mullet cut, their emergence onstage was greeted with gleeful abandon.
They almost immediately dove into a set consisting mostly of new songs from their upcoming new album The Suburbs and their debut full-length Funeral with a few cuts from their second album Neon Bible thrown in. As to the details of the night, well, my memory is kind of foggy. While the band performed with exhuberance, it was much less chaotic than I'd experienced in past shows. That was partially due to the more straightforward nature of the new material such as the country swing of "The Suburbs" or the jittery punk of "The Month of May". The band teeterred between new and old songs, and while initial impressions of the new material are good, it's the anthemic, urgent qualities of the older material that everyone was wanting. As I'd stated the stage presence was much less chaotic than I seen in past performances - no helmet tapping love between Richard Parry and William Butler, for example - but William himself was still as spastic as I remembered as he he tapped out rhythms on snare drum and tambourine with adrenalin-induced energy. Win Regime on drums and background vocals had a constant smile on her face even though half the time her presence was relegated to the back of the stage. When she finally took lead vocals on their track "Haiti" (prior to which Win had announced that a dollar of every ticket sold was going to Partners in Health to help with the relief efforts in Haiti), the crowd cheered. The only real criticism of the night that it seemed much too short, even though the show plus encore ran at least one hour and a half. If things had to end, the band did it well, albeit predictably with the double shot of "Neighbourhood #4(Power Out)" and "Rebellion(Lies)". If the band's main set for every show they play always ends off with those two songs, I'll never complain. As a bonus, the band came back for an encore consisting of "Keep The Car Running" before ending things for real on "Wake Up". The latter song's instrumental coda kicks into a bouncy higher gear as you know, and in my opinion reflects what I presume is the consensus of the night about the show - I so wish this could have gone on longer.
Photos: The Arcade Fire @ The Music Hall, Toronto (June 11, 2010)
MySpace: The Arcade Fire