Arcade Fire, Orpheum Theatre, May 10, 2007
Something extraordinary happened toward the end of the Arcade Fire show at the Orpheum last Thursday, in between the last song of the set proper, “Rebellion (Lies),” and the first of two encores. The crowd forwent the customary “Play more!” applause and instead began oohing the grand eight-bar minor-key melody that concludes “Rebellion.” The singing was right on pitch (the melody is not simple), and the sound had enveloped the darkened room. It was the goosebumpiest moment of a very goosebumpy night.
One would be hard pressed to find a review of an Arcade Fire show that doesn’t include the word “big.” Given the size of the band (there were 10 performers at the Orpheum, and they all played most of the time) and the ambition of their music — dramatic songs with lyrics that deal with such universal themes as fear and death — it’s the first adjective that comes to mind. Most of the music, I’m glad to say, is artfully written and avoids histrionics. There were a few melodramatic moments (singer/multi-instrumentalist Régine Chassagne’s feigned anguish during “In the Backseat”; the grandiose pipe organ and violin of “Intervention”), but for the most part the emotional tenor of the show was affecting. The big dynamic shifts in “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” were expertly executed (not easy with a 10-piece band), and group vocal parts (sung by as many as seven members at a time) were tight and powerful.
Despite Kelefa Sanneh’s recent assertion in the New York Times that Arcade Fire “didn’t set out to be rock ’n’ roll saviors,” at the Orpheum they sure played as if they had. (It’s only a matter of time before some joker comes up with a pun like U2charist and starts playing Arcade Fire at church.) And, to judge by the reaction at the Orpheum, many in the crowd attained salvation.
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