Thursday, September 4, 2014

Arcade Fire - Reflektor Tour (Mansfield, MA)

This past Tuesday, the 19th, I attended my first non-Hip-Hop concert to date. Arcade Fire's grandiose, lavish and exhilarating style made the loss of my Indie show virginity a special occasion to witness. The band hailing from Montreal, known and mocked in good spirits for their abundance of instrumentalists on stage brought their cohesive extravagance to the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The show was all-enticing, never faltering, not a technical or human blunder affected the performance as the near 2 hour exhibition rolled thunderously onwards. For all the positives on display, the show itself wasn't short of a few gray marks, of which I'll get into more detail with later on. 

The two opening performers who entertained for Mansfield, Antibalas and Dan Deacon, could not have been more different. On one hand, a funk and jazz collective that emphasized a nostalgic trip to the 70's through their African heritage, the other an absurdest experimenter focusing on computerized LSD trips with the aims of inducing an epileptic seizure through laser light shows and mind-warping musical fodder. These weren't selected randomly, rather, upon closer inspection, very deliberately as two halved to the Reflektor sound, melding instrumentation with robotic structure. There was a differential gap to witness as well, with Antibalas pandering more to the elders in attendance, while Deacon showered in the digital age, something that awe-struck many of the youth, including myself. His performance, unlike Antibalas, was stunning, personal, and mesmerizing, and the best way at exciting the crowd into a fervor of Arcade Fire

Going into Arcade Fire's set I knew that, no matter how high-strung they made their visual amenities, it would never match my latest show, Kanye West's dazzling Yeezus tour, jam-packed with 36 songs over a 3 hour journey, categorized by five stages, filled with near-nude woman, a yeti-like monster, a giant mountain, fire, and Jesus. Yes, Jesus. But for all they lacked in comparable absurdity, Arcade Fire matched with organized emotion, choreographed sets, and surprise, rather than expectation. Kicking things off, having paid close attention to their previous Reflektor setlist's, I knew even the exact ordering of songs, the inclusion and exclusion of certain ones, would be the biggest surprise. Normal Person rattled the audience with the opening, a song usually placed as the opening encore. It was a nice surprise that transitioned beautifully into Rebellion, which, with its marching chants, rallied the crowd behind one of Funeral's standouts. 

Despite these anthem-like, stadium-appealing songs, the show, while still grand and exciting, took a while to gain traction since they relegated some of their legendary songs for the second half, easily the better half. Tunnels, one of the duo's most memorable songs, was unfortunately sandwiched in the middle between Ready To Start and We Exist, two songs I've never been fond of, that both don't necessarily work flawlessly as concert tunes. However, following We Exist's momentous performance, the real momentum began gaining traction with No Cars Go. Their sole Neon Bible song (a true crime), was easily my most unexpectedly great showing, and was the first track where I truly felt the impact of Arcade Fire's live talents as both Win and Regine battled with their voices over the song's simply sung lyrics. 

Following this was Haiti, a delightful performance and a nice step away from the constant orchestrated approach many of the group's songs have. With its earthy, melancholy appearance, Haiti, along with Regine's beautiful singing, has always been one of my favorite songs, if not for anything more than its audaciousness in terms of their more categorized sounds and structures. As a live performance, this was one of my favorites. I always have had a soft spot for Regine and feel she deserves just as high a place as Win in the group and her performance only solidified my feelings. Win, at times, seemed out of touch, even bored, singing because he had to. While Regine consistently showed sheer joy, breathless emotion, and time and time again put a smile on my face with her antics, her childlike nature never lost on those keen to her actions. 

Reflektor blared next and was possibly the most cohesive track on show, with variations in sound in accordance with the track's 7 minute, roller coaster-like structure. This lead into Flashbulb Eyes which, admittedly, is one of my least-favorite Arcade Fire songs. However how they handled it live, with beams of light shooting at Win, much like paparazzi, from all directions was a welcome touch. My favorite segment however was the ending, not because of my distaste toward the tacky song, but because of its metamorphosis into a shortened (also unfortunate) version of My Body Is A Cage, where Win collapsed on the ground, crying out his tribulations with being on the stage, where the fans are going to clap anyways. It was an incredibly eye-opening moment, for nothing else than realizing the lyrics directly related to the experience at hand, a unique moment during the otherwise gleeful production. 

The group hit their full stride come Afterlife, which was even more glorious and beautiful live then I had ever heard it before. This was in large part due to the magnatizing, incredibly reflective man that emerged in the center of the arena. His slow-moving and haunting motions made it seem like his presence, at least from a distant where I was situated, was nothing more than a hologram. Following this (and after a hilariously-dull departure from the mirror man who just walked off the stage) was It's Never Over, one of my favorites from Reflektor. Regine, accompanied by her exoskeleton tracing her movements, took over the small center stage as her and Win sang back-and-forth, detailing the story of Eurydice & Orpheus. The moment itself was equal parts beautiful as it was creepy. Thankfully the somber tone was wiped quickly after Win added "Happy Birthday Regine" to his final verse, since his wife celebrated her 37th the day before, which was met with tremendous applause. 

And to conclude the initial set was Regine's celebratory Sprawl II, my personal favorite Arcade Fire track, which sounded just as great live as I could have ever imagined. Her twirling streamers, along with the lights literally dropping out, made the performance one of the best of the night. 

As per usual (and entirely redundant at this point) was the encore, of which the group brought out the big guns, including a tribute to one of Massachusetts' most cherished bands, The Pixies, with Alec Eiffel. It was splendidly done and sounded, in more ways than one, like a direct reiteration of the track. Following that was a return to their original music with Here Comes The Night Time, a rigorously fun track and a perfect carnival escapade to celebrate with the rowdy crowd. Power Out was sandwiched between the two anthemic songs and unfortunately seemed more like a lost cause, especially with Wake Up rousing the audience into a frenzy. There was a fair share of shirtless men running around, egging on the crowd to holler more. And boy did it work. The energy in the complex was amplified and echoed out throughout the speakers, especially during the memorable chant of our generation, which was lead by the crowd themselves as Will led us through with his passionate gestures. The group finally called it quits there, thanking the audience as we thanked them back. It was a glorious performance, that wasn't without its few hiccups however.

If there's any small critics I could muster up, the first, and most obvious, would be the lack of Neon Bible. While it's certainly not their standout album, and lost amongst many of their listeners, a patchwork of sounds on their would work flawlessly as a live show, mainly in the church-like instrumentation that carries many songs on the album. No Cars Go held its own, but with its brothers and sisters absent, you can't help but think the group themselves are reconsidering their stance on their 2nd LP. And finally, I may be a little ungrateful because of my previous concert, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of breaks and talks throughout. During the Yeezus tour, Kanye spared no expense at having his own time to speak his mind, set up the next act, or elongate certain songs. Arcade Fire was more like a never-ending train, with the group seeming relatively detached from the audience as song after song played, with hardly no breaks. Heck, Dan Deacon, despite how irritating, connected with the audience in a greater scale and fashion. While I knew the track myself, they never introduced Alec Eiffel to the audience who may have been unaware of its origins the entire time. Regardless, the few negatives I have are vastly outweighed by the positives. The Refkeltor Tour was well worth its price, a great showing from one of my favorite bands, and a joyful occasion, bringing together a large collective of like-minded individuals to celebrate a band's catalog. 

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