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Photos by Mike Ford.
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ARCADE FIRE at the Molson Amphitheatre, Friday, August 29. Rating: NNN
If you're a fan of Arcade Fire's debut album, Funeral, you'd be a fan of their Molson Amphitheatre show on Friday night. Maybe the band's feeling nostalgic (it was their penultimate tour stop before closing out in Montreal), but from the get-go, they seemed most psyched when playing their early material, and the fans responded in kind.
Just after 9 pm, a group of players with papier-mâché heads emerged to the strains of the Jurassic Park theme song. Turns out, it wasn't the band - ha, ha - who trailed along shortly after and launched into one of their new tunes, Normal Person. But soon, that seamlessly shifted into Rebellion (Lies) - to big applause - the first of many cuts from their 2004 effort.
The band didn't ignore their current album, but mostly (wisely) stuck with the danciest tracks, like Reflektor - even more of a banger live than you'd expect; the keyboard solo might have been the best part of the entire night - and Here Comes The Night Time. A couple of extra percussionists on this tour helped bring those Caribbean-imbued tunes to life, and in general, all of the roughly 12 musicians who usually filled the stage, deftly swapping instruments and configurations, were tight and genuinely thrilled to be there, in spite of a questionable (sometimes deafening) mix.
The show was visually impressive - a white stage, white outfits, reflecting disco lights, psychedelic projections - and Win Butler was a compelling frontperson, often climbing up on his amp-podium, making rock 'n' roll poses and sometimes taking a turn at the keys. At one point it looked like he grabbed a couple of people's cameras up front, only to fling them into the crowd (why?).
Aside from that slightly obnoxious move, there were only a few awkward moments: Intervention felt a little lifeless, and a short version of My Body Is a Cage fell flat. While Régine Chassagne handled her lead vocal duties capably, sometimes Butler got a little carried away, losing his way toward the end of Neighborhood #1. Later, he was so amped for Neighbourhood #3 (so were we!), that we could barely pick out the melody.
But mostly the band succeeded in turning the amphitheatre into a wacky, loose, fancy dance party (yes, a lot of people embraced the dress code). Security finally gave up and let fans fill the aisles for the encore, which included a return of the papier-mâché heads, a ton of confetti, an ode to Ronnie Hawkins (Who Do You Love), and, predictably, their epic anthem Wake Up.