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all photos: Brandon Hirsch

*** due to the insane traffic jam we were unable to catch Spoon’s 6:30 pm (!!!!) performance. So fill in your Spoon review in the comments.

Arcade Fire @ MPP Setlist
Ready to Start, Month of May, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), The Well & the Lighthouse, Half Light II (No Celebration)/Neighborhood #2 (Laika), No Cars Go, Haiti, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), The Suburbs/The Suburbs (Continued), Modern Man, Rococo, Intervention, We Used to Wait, Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), Rebellion (Lies) // Keep the Car Running, Wake Up

The Arcade Fire have always been an arena band. The cinematic quality of the music. The theatrics. The all-or-nothingness in their performance. It was all there and more. Now, six years after Funeral took over Indie Rock and the world, they’re living out their destiny. Coming off their two dates at Madison Square Garden, with the latter directed for webcast on YouTube by 12 Monkeys/Brazil director Terry Gilliam, the Montreal octet brought The Suburbs to, er, the suburbs.

An album that finds the band returning to form, The Suburbs focuses on restrained introspection and nostalgic musings about growing up in suburbia instead of the life-and-death theatrics that made the aforementioned Funeral brilliant and Neon Bible hit or miss.

If you were playing the drinking game that’s been mentioned in a few reviews — drink everytime Butler says “kids” or “suburbs” — you would have been properly tanked at the end of the band’s 95-minute set. The majority of the evening’s set focused on album that was released last Tuesday, but they didn’t ignore Funeral or Neon Bible, grabbing the stronger songs from those records to fill out the rest of the 19-song setlist.

Setting the pace of the night with the mid-tempo churn of “Ready to Start” followed by the rollicking “Month of May”. While those two songs received only the occasional tap of the foot familiarity, the place exploded when the all-to-familiar guitar riff of “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” came through the speakers — it was definitely more of a Funeral crowd from where I was sitting.

The new material didn’t come without a few hiccups. “Half Light II (No Celebration)” tripped over its own shoelaces before stopping altogether with Butler blaming it on the drum machine though it seemed like he mixed up the verses instead. They ended up scratching the song and kicked out an invigorating performance of “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” instead. It was nice to see the band being called “the white Parliament-Funkadelic” have a very human moment.

But when it was all systems go, it was something otherworldly.

The new-wave stomp of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” might recall “Heart of Glass“, but it’s more of a signifier in the band’s abilities to try something completely out of their comfort zone and succeeding on all fronts. Set closer “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)/Rebellion (Lies)” was a runaway train of organized chaos with every member of the band beating on something just for the sake of making a joyous noise.

Time for some real talk, though: How good was the set closer “Wake Up”? I mean, it’s great on the record, but live it’s even better. Maybe it’s the 30,ooo-plus people yelling their hearts out in unison. Maybe not. Regardless, it was definitely something special to witness and still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.

And, to think, I’ve been lucky enough to see it twice now.

Update: Spoon’s set:

“Man, Arcade Fire don’t mess around with their openers.”  Spoon started the night with some great pace and positive energy.  Their set was comprised of songs from throughout their more recent albums, and included a few older gems too.  Though, I thought the highlight was their cover of Wolf Parade’s “Modern World.”

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