Published Mar 14, 2014If you saw someone walking down King Street last night wearing sequined, disco ball-like pants, they might not have been en route to one of the street's posh nightclubs. This time only, they were probably on their way to see Arcade Fire at the Air Canada Centre.
In a move that sparked a combination of backlash, excitement and confusion, the band asked show attendees on this tour to arrive in formal attire or a costume. About a third to half of last night's audience obliged, and accordingly, the ACC was peppered with girls in sparkling silver pants, guys in suits, and all manner of costumes, from Christmas elves to dancers from "What Does the Fox Say?" It was a throwback to the band's small Salsatheque gigs in Montreal last September, taped for the world to see in a concert documentary that ran after the season premiere of SNL, and a testament to the their ability to create an aesthetic (or is it a brand?) for their music.
The band took the stage wearing the same white disco suits and face paint that they donned in the "Reflektor" music video, flanked by large, fragmented mirrors and multicoloured lights. They were joined by several extra musicians, including two percussionists, two saxophonists and Owen Pallett on violin and keys.
After a short excerpt from "My Body is a Cage," they they kicked into a set that emphasized the new album, Reflektor, and their debut LP, Funeral. The only other Neon Bible song that raised its head was "No Cars Go," originally written for their self-titled EP. Their coverage of The Suburbs was limited to the big numbers: "Ready to Start," "The Suburbs" and "Rococo," with Win Butler singing Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball" over the opening chords. "Sprawl II" served as a perfectly chosen, upbeat set closer.
The show empathized a combination of band's new material and their old, road-tested fan favourites. Songs like "Reflektor" and "We Exist" sparked dancing from the crowd, and anthems like "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" and "Wake Up" took on a whole new scope in an arena as large as the Air Canada Centre. The added instruments also allowed the band to reinterpret songs such as "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)," which began with a steel drum solo.
As they have done with the last few cities they've visited, the band included a cover by a beloved hometown artist. In Minneapolis, it was "Controversy" by Prince, and here it was "Young Lions" by the Constantines. As if that wasn't enough of an homage to Toronto, they also brought out a man wearing a Rob Ford "mask" made from LCD screens.
Keeping with the exclusive nightclub theme, attendees with general admission floor tickets were treated to a red carpet upon entering and had access to the ACC's Platinum Club area. The latter probably had more to do with the venue's layout than the band's plan — it's just the closest bar/restroom area to the floor — but it still contributed to a certain disparity that characterized the night. Arcade Fire have typically seemed most comfortable playing for a few hundred fans who are standing right in front of them, and last night, those fans got a better show than the ones sitting in the stands.
At one point, Win Butler pointed to the back of the general admission crush and told the people there to start dancing. "There are so many pretty girls here," he said. "Ask a pretty girl to dance with you!" A dance party ensued and lasted for the rest of the set; fans in the stands swayed and watched.
Their Toronto appearance might have worked better at a smaller venue, where everybody could join the party, but then, a lot of people love Arcade Fire, and a lot people wanted to see them. The ACC is the only venue in the city big enough for Arcade Fire's ever-growing fan base. And last night, they sold it out.