Did Arcade Fire have something to prove last night? Opening their Festival Pier set with the galvanizing, rafter-raising, indisputable biggest anthem of their nearly two-decade career — the life-affirming “Wake Up” from their debut Funeral, which is as powerful today as it was upon its 2004 release — seemed to indicate such. Following it up with two more songs from that same album — the askew, nervy “Neighborhood #2 (Laika),” and the indie-dance groove of “Rebellion (Lies)” — felt even more like a bit of a bid for redemption. Hey, remember our album that everybody loved? The one with all these amazing songs you know by heart?
This might have been a somewhat necessary move, following the not-terrific 2017 that Arcade Fire had. Their fifth LP, Everything Now — admittedly not their strongest work, but a nevertheless solid collection of emotive postmodern rock with more than its share of pure bangers — was universally shat upon by the groupthink-minded indie press, which seemingly had been waiting for an opportunity to pounce on their onetime darlings and tear them a new one. Sure, the album was annoyingly marketed; in a method acting extension of its late-capitilasm / excessive-connectivity critique, Everything Now embodied the very things it was taking down in its lyrics and its packaging and its kitschy profusion of branding. But still, fidget spinners? The subsequently ambitious Infinite Content tour had them playing huge rooms to moderate crowds; which, the scale of the stage show couldn’t possibly take place anywhere but an arena, and the Wells Fargo Center stop was as good a gig as I’ve ever seen them play. Nevertheless, the Stereogums of the world jumped at the opportunity for some “Arcade Fire playing to half-empty venues” clickbait.
Which brings them to last night: a packed venue that’s more appropriate for the scale of the band’s Philly fan base (probably as many people or slightly more turned out to Festival Pier as did at Wells Fargo), a relatively stripped down stage show (short of a disco ball and two angled LEDs flashing video throughout the night, the overly busy boxing ring motif of last fall was discarded) and a humbled but nonetheless bigger-than-life band ready to kick some ass. And for whatever my cynicism was at their frontloading the set with three songs from one of their most iconic releases (plus two more from Funeral followed as the night progressed), by the time Win Butler and Régine Chassagne were trading vocals on “Rebellion” and Will Butler was leaping off the stage, pressing against the barricade, pummeling a poor rack tom in the faces of elated fans in the front row, I too was singing along with everybody else while snapping photos of the spectacle. Continue reading →