With a third album on the shelf (see: last year’s The Suburbs), one that clocks in at over an hour no less, Win Butler finally had an expansive catalog to use, and Arcade Fire has always hinted at bigger things. Their 2004 debut, Funeral, shined with songs like “Wake Up”, “Rebellion (Lies)”, and “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” – three tracks that could close out any festival worldwide. They just never had enough material to push their live show into the upper echelon of, say, the E Street Band.
In 2011, Arcade Fire took everyone to the suburbs. Following last year’s headlining performance at Lollapalooza 2010, mere days after releasing their third LP, the Canadian octet unearthed a surreal truth: They appealed to many. Thousands packed in to catch the group, who performed against a recently reunited Soundgarden. That was the spark, but the following year’s win at the Grammy was the ultimate bombshell. The fallout was an ensuing tour that captured and dazzled millions across the world. Songs sounded bigger, themes were understood, and the group appeared self-aware. They stormed around with an authority that just wasn’t there previously. On new tracks like the rollicking “Ready to Start”, the insightful “We Used to Wait”, and the driving “Sprawl II”, Butler & Co. took fans to another world. It was an arena rock show in the vein of Pink Floyd’s tour for The Wall. Songs became events. The band stood for something.
Personally, they hit at areas I can’t even begin to describe without sort of tearing up (e.g. lost moments, fractured nostalgia, bitter adulthood), but a part of me truly believes that anyone of any age in any place could feel the same way. That’s the sort of power any live band should try to grasp. Few ever do – yes, the E Street Band trademark this, too – but how about that? One of our acts made it. Admittedly, that’s a great feeling, and one we’ll be able to enjoy for years to come. Let’s just hope they don’t call it a day like their pal, Mr. Murphy. Doubtful. This is just the beginning. -Michael Roffman