carl and i went the arcade fire show, their last of this tour behind neon bible, at the greek theatre in berkeley last night. phenomenal show, possibly the best live musical performance anyone's guess has ever seen.
perhaps some of you are feeling a bit of arcade fire fatigue; after all, everyone - david bowie! - loves this band and hesitates not to spread the gospel. and anyone's guess can understand the need to come to a band on your own terms. that feeling of discovery.
but there's still be plenty to discover: the energy and enthusiasm and complete lack of pretense are winning; the sound gives away nothing to the studio versions and may in fact be richer, denser in person; the stage effects, including a life-size replica of win butler, the band leader, brought out specifically for "my body is a cage", and onto which video of his face during the performance was projected, are geeky cool but unobtrusive.
perhaps most importantly, it is simply exhilarating, moving & plain fun to stand in the dark with 1500 or so of your closest strangers singing, exclaiming "ooohhh ooohhhhhhh ohh" and "whooo hooo hoo ohhh oh" and all kinds of primal melodies. much of arcade fire's work, particularly on neon bible, seems concerned with the disconnect and terror of modern age: imminent bombs and wars and spiritual & moral bankruptcy, too much privacy and no privacy at all. their unfettered live shows are a way then, if only temporarily, to salve these fears, for band and audience both. a joyful, communal, near transformative experience, with band members swapping instruments, racing around the stage, climbing the stage rigging, using any and everything handy as percussive tool (the way a young child will happily bang on whatever's nearby), and exhorting the audience to participate. even if you hadn't liked the music beforehand, there's a purity to the experience of watching them play it live that, in the opinion of anyone's guess, is all too rare.
what i mean is, if you have the chance, go see them.
carl and i agreed that "my body is a cage", which kicked off the encore, may have been the highlight of the show last night. win is probably the band member most physically restrained on stage, of which the life-size replica, the metaphorical made literal, a fixed point amidst the dervish, was a touching reminder. and who hasn't, at some point, felt let down by their very physicality? or loved someone to whom you could never get quite close enough?
arcade fire - my body is a cage
a couple of my other favorites from last night:
arcade fire - no cars go
arcade fire - headlights like diamonds
and here's a taste of what the band is like live. the first song is from the morning becomes eclectic show on kcrw and the second from a show at first avenue in n.y.
arcade fire - intervention (live at kcrw)
arcade fire - wake up (live at first ave)
finally, go check out their take away show at blogotheque for a performance of "neon bible" in an elevator and a stunning, unplugged rendition of "wake up" in the aisles of the auditorium just before they took the stage.