Arcade Fire Triumph At Madison Square Garden Gig

Videos by American Songwriter

While they appear to be scowling in their latest press photo, it turns out the Arcade Fire are not all serious. The band could be seen joking around with Terry Gilliam, who directed their live webcast from Madison Square Garden last night, in the black and white mini-doc that aired before the concert. Band frontman Win Butler held up a DVD of Gilliam’s Time Bandits (“that’s old and tired,” said the director) and a compilation featuring Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf 2. “Why is Time Bandits 24.99 and Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf 2 only 6.99?” asked Win. “This one has twice the value.”

In the end, with 30 seconds to go, Gilliam “turned on” Arcade Fire (who were pretending to be silent, motionless robots) and they were ready to rock Madison Square Garden, and, indeed, the world, which was watching intently from their computer screens. It must have been an amazing experience for the band, with a brand new album under their belt, to be returning to touring in such a grand fashion.

“It’s been awhile,” said Butler, addressing the crowd. “How’ve you been? How’s your mother?” he asked, in what was probably an SNL reference.

The webcast, (which gave you the ability to switch camera angles, for the ADD set) was not without issues – there were some picture and audio problems, especially in the beginning. Having the visionary rule-breaker Glliam attached to the project turned out to be a brilliant move, because if the screen suddenly became over-pixelated, how would you know it wasn’t actually supposed to look like that?

Below the feed, the Internet’s comments came fast and furious:

wooo arcade fire

you guys are awesome

this is my first time listening to this and I love it!

the sound is kind of jumpy

just play wake up so I can go to sleep

The band, all manic energy and emotional catharthis, were on fire for much of their set, which included all of their greatest hits and only a handful of tunes from their latest album, The Suburbs. During the new track “We Used To Wait,” Butler made his way through the crowd, microphone in hand, and showed his freakish balancing abilities by walking across a beam that was as skinny as he is. “We used to wait for it,” he sang, back on stage. “Now we’re screaming sing the chorus again,” an excellent metaphor for our accellerated culture.

“At every show there’s always someone in front of you saying, ‘can you please not dance?’” he told the MSG crowd at one point. “So look at them and say politely, I respect your personal space, but I’m trying to be at a fucking rock show!” The band then slammed into Funeral’s “Neighborhood #3” as the New York audience collectively lost their minds.

In the end, they had to go; their car was running. They encored with The Suburbs’ moving “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains”), which, in a “this is live, what can you do” moment, had to be restarted. “Our drum machine fucked up,” explained Butler. Then, they finally played “Wake Up,” which sums up everything great about this band –- the surging emotional release they offer their fans, who sang along to the wordless chorus. Their songs are modern hymnals, a new mass to inspire the masses. On this night, Arcade Fire delivered on their promise of being pure at heart.


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