by Paul Stokes
Photography courtesy of Columbia Records
Arcade Fire came to Boston on September 15, hot off the release of their new album Everything Now, a dance-rock infused display of ambiguous defiance. Upon its release the album couldn’t avoid comparison to their previous record, the highly divisive Reflektor, which was similarly dance influenced. However, while the two works do share some sonic themes and motifs, they differ a great deal in terms of overall quality. Whereas Reflektor plays like a concept-heavy art-rock album inspired by great dance-rock artists such as Talking Heads and David Bowie, Everything Now feels more vacuous, a collection of less fully realized Reflektor B-sides that make up for their lack of import by doubling the dose of dance-rock aesthetic.
Suffice it to say, Arcade Fire came into this tour on the heels of their least well-received album to date, and there was almost a palpable anxiety among fans that perhaps the band had lost its edge. After seeing their performance however, the answer was a clear no; Arcade Fire had not lost their edge.
Walking into the seating area of the Garden, it was clear that none of the spectacle of the Everything Now marketing campaign would be missing in the live setting. Giant billboards that advertised Everything Now brand merchandise from fidget spinners to bomber jackets to breakfast cereal hung around all sides of the stage while the voice of “Mr. Everything,” an animated embodiment of the brand (who also appears on the record’s back cover), reminded us to make sure we took as many photos of the show as possible, because “how else will you remember that this happened?” For anyone familiar with the band this was all unsurprising and served as a decent appetizer for the show itself.
The opening act was Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who played an energetic set full of jittery-free jazz and funk. It was a solid sonic introduction for the night, setting the dance-friendly tone right away. The crowd was mostly engaged with the music, but people still milled around the aisles and the upper mezzanine of the stadium, making it hard to feel immersed in the set.
When the lights dimmed for the main event; however, the crowd was enraptured immediately. Arcade Fire lost none of their swaggering confidence on stage and walked into the arena looking like true super stars. After a swelling sound collage of static noise, shredding guitar chords, and high-pitched strings (a between-songs motif they would continue to revisit throughout the set) they broke into their first song, and suddenly all the worry and anxiety about critical reception was washed away.
While some of the songs from the new record did drag the set-list slightly, every performance was inspired. With the stage situated perfectly in center court, the crowd surrounding it on all sides, and the band members rotating to each side between and during songs, the players felt one with the listeners, and both were equally energetic.
It wasn’t until around halfway through the set however, that everything really kicked off. After taking a breather for the subtle and muted “Neon Bible”—which prior to this tour hadn’t been performed live in nine years—the band broke into a streak of some of their greatest hits and biggest fan favorites, including “The Suburbs”, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” and “Reflektor.” It was in these moments that the band seemed the most at ease, comfortably shifting from swinging balladry to electro-pop to dance-rock, all while deftly weaving each song together with electronic noise and instrumental interludes.
By the time the band broke into “Wake Up” during their encore, there wasn’t a single person in the crowd not shouting along and not a single dry eye in the house. The Everything Now tour should serve as a reminder that no matter what anyone may say about Arcade Fire, their confidence is unbreakable and their emotional power undeniable. The band will continue to tour through November, and if you have the chance to see them, take it. You