Show Review: Arcade Fire @ The Frank Erwin Center (09/27)

Last Wednesday night had a large crowd flooding to the Frank Erwin Center for a night of music indie rock legends by the names of Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. If you’ve been around or even somewhat paying attention to the music of the past decade, it feels like it would be an impossible feat to not recognize at least one of these two household names. While Wolf Parade has lived a fairly tame existence in terms of constant rock goodness, Arcade Fire have admittedly dabbled in controversy as of late. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the evening: would the infamous band that created Funeral and Neon Bible force its fans to pay 75 dollars to hear only new material off their less-than-good latest release Everything Now, or would they delight fans to the music that made them famous?

When I got to the Erwin Center floor, I was greeted with the stage set up in the middle of the floor, with people gathering around all four sides of the stage.While I knew that this was the way Arcade Fire was doing things this time around, I was pleasantly surprised–set up in the round, the stage was closer to the back of every side, and spared a distance from those with seats to the action. Giant disco balls and reggae club music provided the ambiance of the waiting game before Wolf Parade took the stage.

While the stage was set up in the round, Wolf Parade took a standard approach to their set, all lining up on one side of the boxing-ring setup. I had the luxury of a floor ticket, and was able to walk around to the side they were oriented to, but it left me a little curious as to how the people in seats on the opposite side were feeling about paying money to the see the backs of a band. They played us new gems from their upcoming record, Cry Cry Cry, and the crowd was one of the most engaged I’ve ever seen for an opening band at a big arena show. Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner led the way, trading off lead vocals from one distinctive yelp to another. The new material sounded lovely–bright synths and keyboard sounds colliding with the heavy guitar licks provided balance to the tracks. My only complaint is that their set was a little short– which isn’t really a complaint when it comes to an opening band, but we did get new single “Valley Boy” and old favorite, “Heart’s On Fire.” They finished their set to big cheers and made me so excited for the release of Cry Cry Cry in hopes that they’ll swing back through Austin for a proper set.

In the thirty minutes after Wolf Parade’s set, there was much crowd shuffling around the ring, everyone trying to ascertain which side Win Butler and company would favor. In this time period, we were greeted several times by an animated graphic of a cowboy with his face replaced by a glitchy galaxy, who urged us to buy merch and walk around the stage with a false southern accent. These instances made my skin crawl and my fears that we’d only see the new slimy Arcade Fire that’s obsessed with regurgitating the ‘everything now’ feeling. I mean, what is with this band and the gimmicks?

Soon enough, though, the lights were dimmed and the same creepy graphic introduced the band as though they were a prized heavyweight fighter and the stage had been surrounded with boxing ring ropes. The band entered from one of the tunnels of the arena like boxers entering a match. Here was the last of the gimmicks and the band finally made it to the stage, opening with the title track of the new album. The night took off from here, as the gimmicks were shed and the band played a back-catalogue heavy set. We got four tracks from debut Funeral, four from sophomoreNeon Bible, three fromThe Suburbs, three fromReflektor,and six from the latest album. As the band rolled through the set of new but mostly old, I was reminded why I chose to still go to this arena show despite my endless disappointment with the new album– this band became one of the biggest names in indie rock for a reason, and it resides in their ability to harness a tangible energy into a live set.

Even spread out to the four sides of a cube, the band still manages to pour life and emotion in to their older tracks like “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “Haiti.” They channel darkness and despair and panic that resonate in songs like “Keep The Car Running” and “My Body is a Cage.” They touch on straight up rock and roll with “Ready to Start,” and disco rock with “After Life” and “Reflektor” and end the night with crowd pleaser and infamous, “Wake Up,” which, say what you want, is still a pretty moving and emotive song.

So, yea, I wasn’t there to hear the new tracks, and yea, I may have danced a little mockingly to Win Butler’s rapping the days of the week, but you can bet I was dancing un-ironically and totally screaming the rest of the songs at the top of my lungs. Every damn millennial wop, and every group “oh-ah.” Sometimes you don’t stop loving the things (or bands) that hurt you.

Photo guy notes: No, I was not allowed to come and shoot the show, so we did our best with phone pics. I will take a second to defer about the new songs. I really liked “Electric Blue”, but it was the next song, “Put Your Money On Me”, that was truly transcendent. The crowd collectively went from being disappointed in having anything besides a classic banger after a new song to holy shit that was an awesome experience. Seriously, one of my favorite Arcade Fire moments from all of the shows, the song just kept building and building in the live setting, eyes blurred, faith in the band’s direction temporarily restored – they did not capture that song’s potential on the record.

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