Arcade Fire review at Coachella: Catharsis and anthems during an intimate show by former festival headliners
Given that they headlined the closing night of Coachella in 2014, it was a double surprise when Canadian indie rock titans Arcade Fire were announced as a last minute addition to the Mojave Tent bill on Thursday. (April 14) – One day before the California Music Festival kicks off.
A double whammy, there was, first, the clash that they were playing at all, and second, that they appeared in a relatively intimate setting.
An eager crowd of thousands still throngs the tent as the seven-piece band enthusiastically take the stage five minutes early, so hearts are in their mouths when frontman Win Butler interrupts the proceedings after just a few bars of their opening song to emergency call a doctor for someone in the front row. Fortunately, help arrived quickly and soon the band were reviving on their recent single “The Lightning I, II”, produced by Nigel Godrich, with Butler’s longtime partner Régine Chassagne pounding her keyboard behind him, as their voices come together in a sticky hymn. take it out and glue it together.
Butler, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Thursday, is clearly thrilled to be here. The band smoothly transitions from their new material to a series of full-throttle indie disco anthems. “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” is followed by “Rebellion (Lies),” and the crowd continues to sing the tune long after the band has finished playing it.
After an exuberant “Ready To Start”, Butler takes over on the keyboard while Chassagne returns behind the group’s second drums. “Thank you so much, we’re so f****** happy to be here,” Butler said. “We first played here in 2005 when we were kids. Now we are no longer children. Things change, but you can’t let change wear you down. It’s okay.” It’s the start of “The Suburbs,” a song that seems to have taken on added resonance after the past two years of coping with unprecedented social change.
“Sometimes I can’t believe it,” sings Butler, as the crowd joins in. “I go beyond feeling.”
It’s a moment of catharsis that is quickly followed by a moment of pure joy. During “Afterlife,” Butler steps down from the stage and leaps into the audience for crowd surfing, which he impressively manages while singing without missing a word or beat.
Outside the tent, the sun is setting, but inside, Arcade Fire is heating up. The stage darkens for another new song “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)”, which like the opener “The Lightning I, II” is taken from their upcoming sixth album. WEto be published next month.
As the set hits its emotional climax, another new song “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” sees the band return to their euphoric, heart-pounding best after the twistiest Everything now in 2017. As the band performs, eight multicolored inflatable figurines of the kind often seen on garage forecourts pop up from the stage. It’s a fun gimmick, but the center stage green has a crease in the fabric and doesn’t fully stand up. A stage hand runs, pulls him down, then the crowd roars as he stands fully upright – an impromptu metaphor for triumph over adversity.
Arcade Fire ends with a monumental version of “Wake Up”, after which the crowd is already adrift when Butler picks up the mic and restarts the chorus. He clearly doesn’t want to leave the stage, and who could blame him?
Performing at Coachella isn’t a bad way to spend the day after your birthday.
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