My first real glimpse of Arcade Fire was in 2007 via La Blogothèque, this French site which shot these beautiful Take Away shows capturing bands performing songs with this natural raw beauty. That was enough for me to become obsessed and enamored with this Canadian band and the countless songs/albums they’ve created over the years.
My first opportunity to capture them through my own lens was years later, in 2010, as headliners at Lollapalooza. I’m nerd-ishly proud to brag, that wasn’t my only experience of the band’s infectiously energetic live performance. The band released their sixth album, WE back in the spring with a rejuvenated breath of fresh sound from them along with that hint of familiarness. It was exactly what this music lover needed in a continuance of what's been a pretty epic year of music releases in this post-pandemic world.
I did have some trepidation of what to expect with the crowd and overall experience after news regarding lead singer Win Butler’s personal life. I think the timing of their North American leg of their tour was just right, both for reacclimating themselves on stage and allowing us music fans to have mostly memorized tracks of their new album. Because of those last two reasons, I have to say how much more It felt like a family band performing on stage than maybe ever before.
The band emerged from somewhere on the floor and made their way excitedly greeting fans and that set the tone of grounded-ness that carried them throughout the evening’s performance. There was something to be expected from the show as we were fore warned in the pits to stay clear of the “laser lines”. The setlist was choreographed beautifully, kicking things off with the newest opening track “Age of Anxiety I,” then moved fluidly through the catalog of albums.
The band’s energy intensified from song to song as a clear sense of comfortability and composure came over them, and Win gratefully thanked Chicago. He endearingly mentioned how he felt it to be similar to a home stop on their tours, which they always look forward to playing. I should mention, prior to the show, there was a sort of intermission after the openers finished their set with musicians playing live on a smaller stage set up mid floor in the arena with a ginormous mirrorball hanging above. That stage would take on a second life, five songs into the set with Butler making his way there during “Reflektor.”
Régine Chassagne did something similarly with “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” disappearing from the main stage and reemerging on the mini stage to close out the song. At this point, I wouldn’t expect any less of her, but in true Régine fashion, she had her own sort of wardrobe changes that went along with certain songs in all their sparkly and colorful glory. Somewhere midway through the set, I recognized something beautiful about this band and their faithful fans (seeming to be of all ages). It felt like one of those experiences a parent was hoping to share with their kids. Between the “costume changes,” the second stage, the laser light show and the alternating of musical instruments, Saturday night’s show was exactly that—a musical experience.
Almost similarly to my childhood memories of the circus making their way into town, there were a ton of ohhs and ahhhs and singing along at the top of my lungs. In 1991, the singer Morrissey had a quote, “Music is like a drug, but there are no rehabilitation centres.” I truly felt that sentiment as Arcade Fire played through their 18-song set, seemingly leaving their heart and soul on that stage.
The band has this way about them where they invitingly guide the crowd to sing along with the choruses and hums where you truly feel like you're a part of the music. After a small break, the band returned as they had in the beginning of the show, this time making their way to the smaller stage. I'm sure for the fans with GA on the floor, this was an extra special treat, if you hadn’t made it to the front row near the main stage, here was your opportunity with their four-song encore in a slightly more “intimate” setting. The band crowded themselves around the piano set in the center of the small stage, each member facing out at a side of the stage. On one side of the small stage in neon cursive lights were the words, "End of Empire"; which the majority of the encore consisted of along with a cover of “1979” by local band Smashing Pumpkins. Finally closing the evening out with the still probably most known of the band’s songs “Wake Up” but still a classic and was a perfect finale in my eyes as well. Until their next time through town, I’ll have this setlist on repeat for some time.
Age of Anxiety I
Ready to Start
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
We Exist (tour debut)
Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)
The Lightning I
The Lightning II
No Cars Go
The Suburbs (Continued)
Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)
Unconditional II (Race and Religion)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
End of the Empire I-III
End of the Empire IV (Sagittarius A*)
1979 (Smashing Pumpkins cover)