Friday, August 06, 2010

Arcade Fire Live at Madison Square Garden

This concert was streamed live on Youtube earlier this evening. Is it an exaggeration to say that the size of the potential viewing audience and the timing of the gig (the week that their wildly anticipated third album is released) make this the biggest gig of their career?

The first time I heard the Arcade Fire, I thought of Blondie. I put on "Funeral", and the first track ("Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)") sounded like a straight up homage to Blondie, specifically, a faithfully xeroxed version of their track "Under the Gun". This was hardly a popular opinion, in fact, it put me in a minority group, population = 1. I still stand by my first impression as being not altogether crazy, although in general, of course, Arcade Fire don't sound like Blondie.

I've still never seen Arcade Fire live, but I've heard a number of live recordings. And although tonight's set never drags, it never seems to build to anything either. The setlist doesn't tell a story like all the best gigs tend to do, which is especially frustrating coming from a band that does nothing but tell stories about escapism. The new tracks don't carry the drama and flair of the older ones (which did NOT seem to be the case for "Neon Bible" ... that album came perfectly into focus for me after I heard some of their early live shows in support of it). There's a lot of motorik rock going on, and several weeks after the title track to "The Suburbs" made its way online, I still don't understand what that track is trying to accomplish (Odd foray into lounge rock? Elton John pastiche? "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" meets "Frankly Mr. Shankly"?)

All is forgiven in the encore -- "Neighbourhoods #1" and "Wake Up" sandwiching a new song, "Sprawl II", that screams Blondie so unmistakably that they might as well play the video for "Heart of Glass" on the video screens during their upcoming tour. Nobody can deny it -- Arcade Fire gave into their inner Blondie, finally, and what's more, they're REALLY really good at it! If the rest of "The Suburbs" can come close to being this good, then they've got their hands on yet another classic album.

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