Arcade Fire, with tUnE-yArDs
Saturday, April 26
For the full slideshow, go here.
Few bands are capable of inspiring such fan fervor (or inspire as much hipster hating) as Arcade Fire. When frontman Win Butler spontaneously performed a DJ set at the Union in Westport on Friday night, it inspired a mad explosion on social media among Kansas Citians - which, inevitably, was followed by blowback from those annoyed at the social-media hype. Yet, even those most irritated at their Friday Facebook interruption, or those inclined to roll their eyes at the headiness of the two-disc release of Reflektor
or at Arcade Fire's call to its audiences on this tour to dress formally or in costume, might just have felt a little differently after Saturday's KC appearance.
It proved tough for anyone at Starlight to resist the high energy of the band's 12-member touring lineup, or the visual spectacle that was brought in literally on ten semi-trucks. Most of all, the atmosphere was electric - particularly when the quintet of young women, all barefoot and in bright dresses, skipped and danced by our seats as Regine Chassigne belted out "Mountains Beyond Mountains" - it felt like joyful release, and the show even at nearly two hours flew by.
tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus seemed to have taken a note out of Arcade Fire's playbook and has expanded her touring band to five members from its regular two. The venue was only beginning to fill up as Garbus and her bandmates took the stage to open the evening, costumed in the spirit of the night. (Making Movies was also playing in the parking lot as we showed up, apparently invited by Arcade Fire.) Garbus belted to those dancing beyond the largely empty pit with the brassy, bold voice for which she has become known. The crowd picked up noticeably for the band's performance of "Gangsta," which is an impressive song on its own merits but requires real chops on Garbus' behalf to perform.
About 20 minutes following a DJ set from Yo Gabba Gabba contributor and electronic musician Kid Koala, the venue's lights were killed, and the members of Arcade Fire began assembling onstage, some threading in through the crowd wearing goofy papier-mâché likenesses of themselves, having to climb over barriers to get to their instruments. The band opened with "Here Comes the Night Time," a bouncy dance song off 2013's Reflektor
- and wasted no time getting down to party business, as the confetti cannons rained down little bits of water-soluble paper all over the Starlight audience. (This was also Starlight's first show of the year, and better weather could not have been ordered.)
To the displeasure of Starlight's relatively strict crew of ushers, Butler urged the crowd to dance in the aisles, to join in the party. The band kept up the early energy, running through "Flashbulb Eyes" and the barn-burner from their debut album, "Neighborhood #4 (Power Out)." Initially there were so many people in the aisles that it was hard to move to my seat, and throughout the evening the ushers worked valiantly to keep aisles relatively clear.
This duty was made all the more difficult by the band's visual surprises, even in the middle of the audience, including a slowly dancing human mirror ball, who rotated and glinted light throughout the venue during the performance of "Afterlife," as the big bass saxophones bounced in the background, and the band's percussionists wailed on their drums. The band's high performance polish was impressive - Win Butler is the consummate frontman, and the supporting members of the band, including horns, strings and percussion, were spot-on enough to choreograph some of their moves. The only hiccup occurred during "Joan of Arc," when the band missed a cue of some kind, omitting a late verse. Régine Chassagne looked over at Win Butler, who returned the glance and put his hands up, shrugging as if to say, "What are you gonna do?"