Show Review: Arcade Fire at the Air Canada Centre

By: Mena Fouda, Photos by Mena Fouda

IMG_0004.jpgA few months ago, Canadian indie-rockers Arcade Fire released their fifth album, Everything Now. It was received with lukewarm responses from critics and fans alike, many of whom felt that only a couple of the new tunes carried the depth and creativity of the band’s earlier work. Listeners also felt that Arcade Fire’s marketing for this album, which dug at commercialism and modern capitalism influencing music, came off as pretentious.

However, that didn’t stop the band from playing two back to back shows at the Air Canada Centre on November 3rd and 4th.

I arrived shortly before the doors were meant to open, and the line-up was an assortment of laid-back fans of all ages. The arena was set up differently. The stage was in the centre, and audience members in the pit could surround it on all four sides. As a drama student, I was instantly fascinated by this “in-the-round” type of set-up. Were band members supposed to revolve around the stage?

By the time opening band Broken Social Scene started performing, the stage set-up made total sense. Both bands had many members on stage, often carrying their instruments around and alternating on which side to perform on. Despite not really having listened to the opener before, they ignited a great sense of nostalgia in the audience, and were an appropriate precedent.

Usually, the time between an opener and the actual band can be really boring. You’ve been given a taste of that special concert feeling, but then you’re left waiting. Arcade Fire combatted this feeling, displaying fake advertisements on the screens. We were made to believe that the “Everything Now” corporation had commissioned a number of products, such as a fidget spinner retailing for $6.99 and an Electric Blue eye serum. These entertaining bits helped pass the time, as did a digital hype-man, who would show up on screen every few minutes and demand that the audience cheer or wave.

The band came out in a wrestling-championship style. They emerged from the arena’s entrances, wearing similar jackets, pumping their fists and enjoying the screams of the crowd. They climbed on a stage that resembled a wrestling ring, and launched into a set-list which consisted of their classic songs, as well as newest hits. They brought the unconventional to a conventional arena—somehow, you could see the same early passions of a small indie rock band, despite their playing to almost 20,000 people.

It was clearly a show to celebrate their success. The band decided to add the song “Haiti” off their debut album, bringing out Haitian singers in flowing dresses to dance on stage. They played on glass bottles, and climbed down to sing with the crowd. They extended certain parts of songs, urging the crowd to sing along. I began to lose my voice from those moments, and wondered how on earth lead singer Win Butler wasn’t exhausted at this point. All of their songs were recognizable from the first notes.

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The highlight of the whole concert for me was listening to the sweet sounds of Régine Chassagne singing, in her uniquely high voice, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” I had been turning to my friend throughout the whole concert, exclaiming how excited I was to hear that particular one. When it came time, a fellow concert-goer in front of us turned back and said, “This is your song.”

In fact, the whole concert was an epic finale to the band’s North American tour, showing that whenever Arcade Fire shows up in Toronto, they ignite some major flames.

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