Published Aug 31, 2014Arcade Fire are probably the biggest Montreal band at the moment, so for them to hold out on giving their hometown love until the very end of their Reflektor tour was just downright cruel. Thankfully, they made the wait completely worth it, bringing a beautiful night of music to Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau, and ending their tour with a great show.
The night's festivities began with Fraka, the new project from Montreal duo Doody and Kami. The group bills their music as "C-pop," merging the duo's Caribbean influences with a five-piece backing band to add a new dimension to Doody and Kami's music. While their clap-along choruses became a bit stale after a while, the group's joy was nice to watch, and a pair of enthusiastic backup dancers amplified their partying vibes.
Austin, TX-based rock quintet Spoon didn't come off as too comfortable on the massive stage, but their music made up for their middling stage presence. From the grooving bass of set opener "Don't You Evah" to the thumping howl of "Don't Make Me a Target," the band delivered their rock, moored by Britt Daniel's gravelly voice with added keyboard textures from new addition Alex Fischel. The band also played a trio of tunes from their latest LP, They Want My Soul, released earlier this month, but the atmospheric cuts fell a bit flat with the crowd, although they sounded great. Ending with "Small Stakes" from 2002's Kill the Moonlight, the band's oldest track of the night was also the most fitting for the massive Parc Jean-Drapeau stage, ending with a great, straightforward rocking climax set to an epilepsy-inducing light show.
While Maryland electro-pop maestro Dan Deacon was the sole person huddled over his setup of analog synths and other assorted doodads, his material was bombastic and overwhelming. He only played a few tracks but quickly made a fantastic impression on the growing crowd with self-deprecating jokes about being unable to speak French and several endearing attempts to start a dance circle in the crowd. His music, featuring bleeping electronics and exuberant shrieking vocals, was cacophonous but incredibly enjoyable, and Deacon's abundant enthusiasm was so physically overpowering that he had to request a sandbag to secure his setup as he jumped up and down at his station. Deacon's whole set was spectacular, especially during set highlight "Konono Ripoff No. 1," a sprightly pop number with bloopy earworms.
For their first major hometown show in three years, Arcade Fire pulled out all the stops, including a beefed-up roster with over a dozen players that ensured that each song received its fullest possible arrangement. All-star arrangers Owen Pallett and Colin Stetson anchored the string and brass sections, respectively, while a trio of Haitian percussionists delivered some Caribbean flavour with their splashes of congas. Additions like Regine Chassagne's steel pan drums on "Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)" or horns on "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" added great flair to the already flourishing tunes.
Songs from Reflektor sounded just as tight live as they do on the record, and tunes like the title track, "We Exist," and "Here Comes the Night Time" turned the packed crowd into a sweaty dance party. The night also had some more poignant moments: the slowed-down introduction to "Empty Room" really gave the strings room to breathe and bloom, lead singer Win Butler's emotional vocal delivery on "The Suburbs" added wistfulness to the night, and "Haiti" featured an interlude involving one of the Haitian percussionists singing in Haitian Creole. The group's sophomore record, Neon Bible, often neglected in the live show, was even given its own little section, with a sparse rendition of "My Body is a Cage" leading into the upbeat double-header of "Keep the Car Running" and "No Cars Go."
Over the past year, the Reflektor tour has made headlines for its theatrics, including requesting fans dress in formal wear or costumes (many ignored it, but those who didn't went all out), video screen helmets, a human "reflektor" decked out in mirror shards, papier-mâché bobbleheads of the band, said bobbleheads "performing" a joke cover song, and a cover honouring a local band. Despite the common knowledge of these occurrences among fans both diehard and casual, Arcade Fire pulled them off with nary a trace of ennui so the gags felt fresh, even on the last night of the extensively covered tour.
The band's tradition of covering a song relating to the city of the concert was made all the more special by their status as a Montreal band; the honour was bestowed upon local legends Wolf Parade, and their tune "I'll Believe in Anything" was given a zealous rendition that was a great tribute to the now-defunct troupe, retaining its vigour while giving Arcade Fire's guitars a chance to shine.
The band closed with "Wake Up" from their debut LP, Funeral; the moving track's oscillation between restrained contemplation and unbridled exuberance capped off the song, the night, and the tour with fireworks (of both literal and sonic varieties) followed by an extended conga solo to send the awestruck crowd home. Arcade Fire's enthusiasm and skill blended together to end their tour with an incredibly successful performance.