I've been up for 22 hours, so operating on fumes now, but even as I put together this entry, I'm IMing with an old concert buddy, Rad, recapping tonight's Arcade Fire at Madison Square Garden show. My expectations were not the highest, as their latest album, The Suburbs, has yet to grow on me, since I haven't had it for that long, and well, not much measures up to the amazing Funeral, which I still listen to on a semi-weekly basis. But once the openers and their instruments cleared the stage, and the roadies began setting up Arcade Fire's gear -- I think there were no less than seven monitors across the front of the stage, two sets of drums, a bunch of keyboards and a piano -- I began to get really excited. I was reminded of the other times I had seen this expansive band and loved the energy that I felt from them and the crowd, which has grown successively larger with each venue they play. And here they were, about to play the biggest gig in the city for two nights in a row.
(More words and pics, including a setlist, after the jump.)
Whereas in prior occasions I did not have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the band, this time I made sure to get in line a little bit earlier than the post work crowd, allowing me and my friends to be on the rail this time, and to our delight, the sound mix was perfect even up front.
Win Butler, the front man, did his best to engage the pit by stepping in front of the stage a number of times suspended between a tall box and the rail. He even engaged in a bit of daredeviltry at one point, walking on the rail while aided by outstretched arms. And he teased the MSG crowd by reminiscing about his beloved Houston Rockets' victory in the 1994 NBA finals over the Knicks.
The band was amazing to watch, as various members zipped around the stage, switching up instruments with each song. They played a setlist (picture below) that lasted about 90 minutes and featured songs from throughout their catalog. The crowd responded eagerly, especially for favorites, "Power Out," "Rebellion (Lies)" and the closer, "Wake Up," and there might have been a few lulls for the newer songs, but, overall, I would describe the show as simply triumphant.
The openers were Owen Pallett and Spoon. I was not familiar with Pallett's solo work either as himself or under the former moniker, Final Fantasy. Previously, I had only seen him years ago play with Arcade Fire at Webster Hall. His music, comprised mainly of a violin, a synthesizer, his voice and some nifty looping pedals (and a second fellow on percussion for a few songs), at first listen seemed an unlikely choice to fill an arena, but he handled the task rather deftly, I thought, and made the people who bothered coming early happy. Like a delicious amuse-bouche.
Spoon, being the consummate professionals that they are, I thought did an admirable job as well, warming up the crowd despite the sound mix crapping out on them midway. If you check out the setlist below, it focused heavily on their two most recent releases, with a smattering of older singles. Lead singer Britt Daniel stood out, clad in all whites.