By Nicole Rosenthal, Contributing Writer
Indie rock legends Arcade Fire kickstarted the American leg of their tour Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in what proved to be a gorgeous, extravagantly executed performance. The Montreal-based group, known widely for their lavish and multi-layered instrumentation, implemented a career-spanning set which ranged from their 2004 debut album Funeral to their latest release, Everything Now.
The recent effort has gained widespread attention not only for the band’s plunge into disco-infused pop rock, but also for the album’s overarching commentaries of consumerism and immediate gratification. This concept was directly implemented into the physical structure of the tour, as the stage platform was strategically centered in the middle of the area, which turned 360 degrees to allow the audience to see the band at all angles.
The energy immediately began flowing as a mock-boxing match ensued between brothers Win and Will Butler while the lot of the band entered a faux boxing ring. Husband-and-wife duo Win Butler and Regine Chassagne donned their respective guitar and keytar to play the introduction chords to the ABBA-infused titular track Everything Now, sending a shockwave of the infectious piano melody throughout the venue.
To be completely frank, Arcade Fire could not fit all their best songs into a two-hour slot–they would require days on end. The set list was intricately crafted to ensure that each song would flow smoothly into the next, which was impressively shown off by the seamless transition from 2017 disco-infused single “Signs of Life” to 2004’s indie-rock anthem “Rebellion (Lies)”.
The use of light alone was absolutely marvelous, as beams of white light descended from the ceiling to encapsulate the standing audience in their own quasi-boxing ring. From the elaborate footwork of the guest Haitian dancers during “Haiti” to the flashing siren-like lights of “Creature Comfort” to the angelic glow of “Neon Bible”, Arcade Fire not only knows how to speak to an audience musically, but visually as well.
During the last half of the set, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Win Butler stood up on a box, passionately crying the lyrics to “Creature Comfort” to the audience like a fire-and-brimstone preacher as he raised both hands to call upon the audience. Chassagne alluringly waved elegant streamers in a sort of hypnotic dance during “Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains”. From the heart-wrenching “Neighborhoods #1 (Tunnels)” to infectious disco tracks such as “Reflektor” to cathartic anthems like “Afterlife”, the set list seemed to touch upon every heart string.
After the powerful punk-tinged “Neighborhoods #3 (Power Out)” and a brief absence, the band quickly returned to the stage to the delight of thousands. Joined by Regine Chassagne gently tapping glass bottles, Win began with the opening lines of the melancholic “We Don’t Deserve Love” while walking almost in a dream-state through the elated crowd. Following was the emotive and baptismal “Wake Up”, featuring the famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Win continued marching through the audience, eagerly inviting them to join in chanting the chorus that boomed throughout the stadium.
Seen live, Arcade Fire truly is one of the most visually stunning and evocative bands. Their expertly crafted music seamlessly intertwines with magnificent visuals that will jerk a surprisingly strong reaction out of a concertgoer. The band truly delivered everything now.