Click here to view the setlist for this show.
Let’s be honest: I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to go to humongous shows like this anymore. I had atrocious seats and that killed everything for me. I chalk 95% of my damnation to shit seats up to the bullshit rigamarole required to get tickets for this gig in the first place. For those of you who are unaware, tickets were paperless and could only be ordered through Ticketmaster, either over the Internet or via an agonizing phone call.
I wound up going with the latter option, not because I wanted my head to spin throughout navigating twenty-five automated menus but because I’d gone down to the Orpheum box office in hopes of getting tickets only to be told they weren’t selling any. Instead of waiting the hour it would’ve taken to get home on a train, I opted for the phone call; only after I had been struggling to get the robo-operator to spell my name correctly for about 35 minutes was I told where my seats were. And that is pretty much completely useless knowledge unless you either have the seating chart memorized, or you conveniently had a copy of it in front of you – neither of which was so for me.
It turned out that I’d snagged a pair of seats in Section 5, which is directly behind the sound booth. This meant that in addition to being eclipsed by five rows of people standing directly in front of me, my view was obscured by a range of computer monitors, speakers, microphones, and even a rope ladder or two. Why there are seats available to be bought in such a ridiculous location is beyond me. At the very least, for having paid the extra $10 I did (the options were $35 and $25; as the BoAP has no lawn, I’m not sure what constituted those cheaper seats), I shouldn’t have had a fucked view of the stage without being informed ahead of time. But I did, and combined with the fact that I was already at least a hundred yards from the front, my crap seats effectively destroyed any chance I might’ve had at properly enjoying this show.
This sucks all the more because the music, unsurprisingly enough, was outstanding. The band played through a decent chunk of their fantastic new album, The Suburbs, and though the songs weren’t half so immediately familiar and affecting as the tracks they played from Funeral, they still sounded impeccable. It was shocking to hear that they’d only played Suburbs highlight “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains” live once before; it was one of the night’s many high points, brimming with its electro-pop-tinged energy and punctuated by a bouncy, delightful turn as frontwoman from Regine Chassagne. Boldly, Arcade Fire kicked off their set with the second track off the new disc, “Ready to Start,” a tension-loaded post-punky track that could’ve chilled the crowd but had at least a few of them sashaying and tapping their feet instead.
Though I could scarcely see a bloody thing going on onstage, I could see the massive screen perched above the bands’ heads. It primarily featured arty short-form clips, and at one point even a fast-moving collage of hand-written letters and other ancient printed documents, but it also interspersed live clips of the band wailing on their instruments, or in the case of Chassagne, frenetic jumping and dancing. The band, especially sweat-dripping frontman Win Butler, came alive most notably during new single “Month of May,” a highly-charged punky diatribe aimed at the kids at shows who just “stand with their arms folded tight,” and unfortunately enough, most of those kids kept on crossing their arms, lifeless and non-reactive as human sculptures. Can someone explain why this is what happens at the vast majority of shows you go to anymore? For most of the night, no one around me even so much as sang along. How sad.
But there were some exceptions to the tight-folded arm rule. Perhaps predictably, Arcade Fire got their biggest reaction at the end of the night during “Wake Up,” and it was a phenomenal thing to behold live; the wordless, soaring vocals that kick off each verse were joined in with deafeningly, sending a few thousand voices reverberating magnificently throughout the venue and out into the nearby harbor. A few of the blank-eyed statues around me couldn’t resist the urge to pantomime the song’s anthemic drumline, or to jitterbug along to the weirdly “Walkin’ on Sunshine”-like bridge. There were a few other tracks that had similar effects, like the glorious “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and the handclap-laden “Keep the Car Running,” so that was encouraging. Still, I can only wonder how these gargoyles perceived my behavior, which I’ve always considered to be perfectly normal and expected in a concert setting. Maybe I’m the crazy one.
Regardless, there were scarcely any songs that didn’t deliver. The setlist was artfully crafted, filled with new tracks but interspaced with classics in a way that kept the crowd’s suspense to hear our favorites running high, making every time we heard a familiar intro brim with all the more excitement. Case in point: the night’s (arguably) strongest moment, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” a dark, enduringly gripping song well-known and -loved from Funeral, came after a three song-long string of cuts from the new album. Its angry, impetuous power was made all the more wrenching and climactic, coming as it did on the weak heels of The Suburbs‘ comparatively dull “Deep Blue.”
I wish I could provide more insight on what the band was up to during all of this, but I’m depressingly unaware. I can, however, go into a large amount of detail about the comings and goings in the sound booth, so if anyone’s interested, drop me a line, har-de-har-har. Let it be known, though, that despite my bullshit seats, I can attest to this band’s greatness as a live act. If you are lucky enough to be able to both hear and see these heroes of all things indie, I implore you to do it. And I implore you to come back here and tell me about how awesome it was, because there’s no way it wouldn’t be.
In parting: to my Bostonian readers – did you know Arcade Fire played TT the fucking Bear’s Place (yeah, that divey hole-in-the-wall in Cambridge) in 2004? Seriously. Look: