Arcade Fire

House of Blues

January 24, 2005

BY MARTY GARNER


I take back every unkind word I've said about the apathy of New Orleans rock crowds.

Blame it on the advent of Mardi Gras, the nice weather, or just the incredible sounds coming from the stage, but the city turned out in multitudes to scream for Montreal's Arcade Fire at the House of Blues Monday night. Even before the first note was played, a thick energy ran through the room.

Arcade Fire was 2004's most hyped band. If we learned anything from Franz Ferdinand(other than how to start a World War), it's that bands have a hard time being as good as their hype. The Arcade Fire was better. From the "playing like it's all that matters anymore" passion to the band's infectious energy to the grandiose crafting of their songs, the seven piece group left a sell-out crowd breathless. People yelled out urgent thank you's between songs, and the Arcade Fire looked confident and purposeful throughout. They clearly took it seriously and were having a hell of a time doing so.

The songs were sprawling, cinematic brothers of their recorded counterparts. Multi-instrumentalist Richard Parry banged on a drum around his neck, a keyboard near his arms, and a motorcycle helmet on his head during a beautifully intense and haunting "Neighborhood 2 (Laika)." Every soaring melody was echoed loudly by the intense crowd, giving the music an otherworldly, almost spiritual edge, particularly during a stunning "Wake Up."

The crowd/band relationship melted into a 1,007 person symphony when instruments rose in a beautiful caucophony. Everyone was giddy. Arcade Fire added a coda to a rollicking "Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)," which set the entire crowd bouncing like it was a Limp Bizkit show.

When they left the stage after "Power Out" and "Rebellion (Lies)," Arcade Fire came back and topped their tenacity with softer material. After a gorgeous "Headlights Look Like Diamonds," accordian, violins and bowed bass accompanied a version of "Haiti" that pushed to the edge but never broke. The truly awe-inspiring moment came with "In The Backseat," an ode to escape from the pain of a loved one's death. Guitarist Win Butler led the rest of the band through a charming waltz as lead singer Regine crooned and cried--the same goes for the first few rows. Regine slowly rocked back and forth as the band faded out, the crowd quietly wooing the harmony.

Arcade Fire marched off stage calmly as Parry tapped his drum with sadness. Butler exited through the crowd, running away from the beautiful, melancholic march.



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