Published Aug 15, 2010The Sadies' stomping bass and new age bluegrass seemed a perfect match for Toronto's recent bayou weather, but humidity be damned, the hometown quartet kicked off what is sure to go down as one of the year's most memorable summer nights. Following the countrified twang, Janelle Monáe emerged onto the stage draped in a black cloak, jumping into "Dance or Die" from this year's The ArchAndroid. The critically acclaimed "Tightrope" and "Wondaland" helped cement her "legend in the making" status, and made her a tough act to follow, even for Arcade Fire.
"You're making us work up here," Arcade Fire's Win Butler later quipped, before proving what every longtime fan had devotedly hoped: that at the centre of the hype — the Terry Gilliam-directed webcast, the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart, the headlining slot at Lollapalooza — still stands the same poignant, hard-working band from Montreal who mean it when they thank their fans for coming and make room for a hurdy gurdy. The appropriately titled "Ready to Start" began the show, followed by the punky "Month of May" — the latter of which has been one of a small handful of new songs from The Suburbs that maintain the haunting chill of Arcade Fire's earliest LP, Funeral.
"Intervention" came later, as did "Sprawl II," at which point Régine Chassagne crept out from behind the drums to take command. Butler seated himself at the piano for "The Suburbs," before concertgoers learned why the phrase "religious experience" is often applied to the band's live show on "Crown of Love." In the spirit of tradition, the night did not finish without an all-hands-on-deck, sing-for-your-life rendition of "Neighbourhood # 3 (Power Out)," which then became "Rebellion (Lies)," which then became the entire crowd singing the chorus until the band returned for an encore.
More consistent than the set list, though, were the band themselves: Will Butler marching around the stage banging a lone drum like a child on Christmas morning, Chassagne bursting with a childlike energy and Win keeping his quiet reserve. Five years and three albums into their career, Arcade Fire's venue is now an island and the crowds have swelled exponentially, but onstage, they are still just a bunch of kids playing their guts out.