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Photo courtesy Krists Luhaers

Arcade Fire energizes Saddledome with remarkable performance

By Thomas Johnson, October 17 2017 —

Arcade Fire performed at the Saddledome on Oct. 12 following their summer release Everything Now. The “Infinite Content Tour” operates as a satirical critique of rampant consumerism, invasive marketing, content saturation and push notifications. Fittingly, the band soundtracked their own walk-on, spilling from the dressing room into the lenses of back-pedalling cameramen. As the Montreal band took to their stage-turned-boxing ring led by Win Butler in an all-white suit, each member made their way to their individual instruments spread 360 degrees across the stage.

The concert began proper when they erupted into “Everything Now,” the album’s satirical mission statement. The 20-plus song setlist was frontloaded with new cuts and intermittent staples, while the second half of the concert rattled off with a slew of their most recognizable numbers. “Everything Now” was followed by the funky “Signs Of Life,” a suitably anthemic “Rebellion (Lies),” the carnivalesque “Here Comes The Night Time” and the escapist “No Cars Go.” After humbling the crowd with a skeletal rendition of deep cut “Neon Bible” and several of Everything Now’s funkier numbers, Arcade Fire transitioned into a run of songs that could serve as the strongest resumé in indie rock.

The performers traded instruments between songs, making full use of the stage’s panoramic arrangement. Whether they were swapping corners, strolling amongst each other or prancing amid the crowd, not a single member remained static. One moment Régine Chassange would be sharing a mic or keytar with Richard Reed Perry, the next moment she was replaced by Will Butler and a snare drum. To watch the band inhabit the stage so interchangeably was something truly remarkable.

The concert’s crowning moment was when Arcade Fire broke into the smoldering angst of “Crown Of Love,” a jewel in their discography that had gone unperformed since 2014. Their baroque orchestration was electric, filling the venue with a kinetic energy that coursed through the passionate audience. By the song’s crescendo, teems of fans were swaying in unison, belting out the central couplets and moving to the firecracker breakdown until its conclusion.

There’s a strong argument for Everything Now as Arcade Fire’s least-great record. That’s not condemnation, but backhanded praise. Despite still being a knockout in its own right, it’s neither as immediately stirring as its predecessors nor as subtle in its content. When the crowd rabidly chanted Arcade Fire back onstage for an encore, it was obvious which song they would close the show with. It only made sense to end the night with “Wake Up,” their generational hymn with an iconic chorus.

But, the penultimate song of the night, just as on Everything Now, was “We Don’t Deserve Love.” Butler and Chassange tenderly cooed of dreams turned to ashes and the guilty baggage that comes with a state of constant ingestion, washing the ‘dome in melody and electric-blue beams.

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