Arcade Fire’s Vancouver show equal parts catharsis and affirmation

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      At the Pacific Coliseum on Tuesday, September 28

      Considering how cathartic and affirming Arcade Fire’s set was at the Pacific Coliseum on Tuesday, it’s surprising how disappointingly the evening began.

      People were still trickling into their seats when openers Calexico started kicking up a ruckus, so only about 100 or so kids ended up in front of the stage to see the band’s set. The Arizona septet still played as if the joint was packed, though, doing its best to lead the crowd in sing-alongs as it dusted Americana with sweeping slide guitar and Cinco de Mayo horns. Frontman Joey Burns tore into fleet-fingered flamenco runs on the rollicking “Alone Again Or,” while the group dished up a Latin-flavoured interpretation of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” halfway through “Not Even Stevie Nicks.” By set’s end the Coliseum bowl had filled up considerably, but you could tell the mass was waiting for Calexico to make its exit.

      It’s been three years since Montreal indie-popsters Arcade Fire last played Vancouver, so the tension in the building was fierce before its performance. Naturally, shrieks and applause filled the venue as a massive billboard mounted onstage lit up with silhouettes of the octet. Right from the first jangling notes of “Ready to Start,” the place went nuts. One of the bouncier cuts off the recent disc The Suburbs (a large portion of this zest due to Tim Kingsbury’s walking bassline) the track set the tone for what would end up being a communal celebration.

      “We’re really fucking happy to be here,” band leader Win Butler shouted excitedly. “Vancouver is like our sister city!”

      Though the frontman would rock the mike for the better part of the night, his wife Régine Chassagne took control of the crowd early on with the one-two punch of “Haiti” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”. The former held added meaning for Chassagne this time around, as she clutched at her chest and sung about her former homeland, which suffered through a massive earthquake earlier this year. Later on, Arcade Fire would reveal that a dollar from each ticket sold would be going towards rebuilding Haiti.

      “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” injected a glittery disco vibe into the group’s sound, which was anything but unwelcomed. Sweet synths filled the air as Chassagne twirled and vogued around the stage, eventually grabbing a pair of multi-coloured pom-poms to shake about.

      Arcade Fire performs "Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)" at the Pacific Coliseum.

      Other new tunes like the propulsive “Rococo” found the band’s members jumping in on percussion. Redheaded Richard Reed Parry took to tickling the ivories for part of the song but was compelled to hop on a second kit near full-time drummer Jeremy Gara to pound out a beat of his own. It was one of many moments that saw members of Arcade Fire switch up its instruments.

      Whether Chassagne was cranking on an accordion on “No Cars Go”, or multi-instrumentalist William Butler was banging on a marching band tom-tom, the outfit proved that it’s not afraid to mess with the program.

      While there are moments of melancholy on The Suburbs, including “We Used to Wait,” which pines for the days when we relied on snail mail, none of the songs sound overwhelmingly depressing. Even when Butler, seated behind a piano, choked out a line about “fucking condos and high-rises” on “The Suburbs”, there was hope in his voice. That hope was doubled by Chassagne, who serenely walked over to her husband’s side to sing along.

      The finale of “Wake Up”, off 2004’s Funeral, found the entire band wide-eyed and appreciative of its audience.

      “You get back what you give,” Win said before launching into the encore. “You guys are fucking awesome.” Lined up across the front of the stage, Arcade Fire sang its rallying cry along with thousands of devotees before calling it a night.

      Filing out of the stadium and back to the suburbs, fans knew that, if only for a couple of hours, they’d been as one with the biggest indie band in the world. And despite that rough start to the night, it felt incredible.




      Sep 29, 2010 at 10:48am

      Greg, are you saying "rough start" because Calexico was entirely the wrong choice for this concert, or because you wish more people were into the opening band? Don't get me wrong, Calexico sound like they are great musicians, but I don't know why the hell they were opening this concert???

      Arcade Fire were...on fire. They made an acoustically challenged Pac Colliseum sound like a concert hall more than any other band I've seen at that venue. The sheer number of instruments being played at once obviously helped to round out the sound!


      Sep 29, 2010 at 12:32pm

      The concert last night was amazing!!


      Sep 29, 2010 at 12:46pm

      Was a good show. Sound was a little quiet for the first half but once they brought the volume and visuals up the whole crowd was on their feet.

      Also, was really nice to attend a stadium gig where security actually knows how to treat an audience with respect and handle problems with measured responses. Could teach the crew of power-crazy thugs over at the Rogers Arena a thing or two.


      Sep 29, 2010 at 3:15pm

      Concert was nothing short of amazing. This is the best band in the world playing on top of their games. I seen them in August in Toronto; and in all truth this was a more completed sound. I will cherish this concert for years.


      Sep 29, 2010 at 6:10pm

      I recorded a bunch of the show. Here's my video of 'Wake Up'...

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      I've also posted Neighborhood #3/Rebellion... I'll be posting more to youtube soon

      Frank Turdshoe

      Sep 30, 2010 at 8:43pm

      magmazing: Thanks for posting the video.Was there the other night as well as when they played Deer Lake Park a few summers back and they are a fabulous band.Being in the Coliseum,my brother and I started reflecting on all the acts we had seen in the old building starting with Cream in June of 68,the Doors in July of 68,Hendrix on Labour Day that same summer.This show will stay with my memories of many a show gone before.And I will cherish it like all the others.


      Oct 1, 2010 at 3:40am

      Magmazing we meet again! Last we met was with your videos of Pemby on their forums. I got the audio which I believe you downloaded. We ought to consider doing a collaboration DVD. Are you on the coast? If you are let me know as I have a bunch of shows there coming up as well as some recent shows which maybe you have video of? If you're interested, let me know how to reach you.


      Oct 5, 2010 at 12:18pm

      Had a great time at the show even though my seats were horrible and the sound wasn't very awesome up there (my fault for not getting floor seats as planned). My first concert sober ever! And for Stuart of The Province, the new album has plenty of great songs! Listen up will ya?

      NV Dmo

      Oct 6, 2010 at 6:06am

      It was the crowd's loss that they were not there for Calexico. Like Arcade Fire, they are a large group of talented and versatile musicians. I really enjoyed their set.
      After Calexico finished their set, there was a mini stampede into the building. Why is it that Vancouverites, even so called indie fans, are not open to hearing something new?