New York City and Arcade Fire are like peanut butter and jelly, they simply just go together. The Canadian ensemble returned to the area for three special concerts at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, in an event that went on sale nearly a year before it began, it was a testament that this band wanted to really make sure the audience that helped build their career a decade ago would make it out to see them.
What will probably be the concert event of the year, Arcade Fire took to the main stage at Barclays at 9 p.m. sharp on Saturday night to begin the second of three nights at the arena. As a scrim covered the stage, shadows of the band appeared as they walked on stage, alongside the paper mache bobblehead versions of themselves that have been famously used on this tour. While the massive band were taking their places, frontman Win Butler came on the mic to discuss the extinction of dinosaurs in a bizarre Jurassic Park inspired diatribe. As soon as the speech came to a close, the opening chords to "Normal Person" were played and the scrim came crashing down and the chaos and creativity was seen in full force. With a brass section, string section, reggae / soca band backing the already enormous six-person Arcade Fire, it was a feast for music lovers, fans, and anyone with a pulse. As a wall of mirrors came down from the ceiling and bounced the lights off into the crowd, a disco ball was hanging above the general admission section, setting the tone for everyone to make sure they brought their dancing shoes. It was then into Funeral's "Rebellion (Lies)" where the chaos came into full force. Win would jump into the crowd to sing as his brother, Will, would press against other members of the band headfirst as if they were bulls locking horns. In typical Arcade Fire live fashion, no one person plays the same instrument twice, everyone was in a different position and had a different instrument in hand. It is this creativity and musicianship that have made them who they are -- critical darlings, fan favorites, and easily the greatest live band on the planet.
With a majority of the setlist coming from their recent records, Reflektor and The Suburbs, they still managed to sprinkle in a few tracks from Neon Bible, as well as the best known songs from Funeral, including the rarely played, "Haiti," which Win talked about the importance of that song as a dollar from each ticket sale went to Partners in Health, which started to help HIV / AIDS patients in Haiti and has now begun doing major work in Africa. While the tone of the set would change from fun to serious, it was still a party for the ages. As backup dancers, who seemed to not be able to fit on the main stage, danced on a smaller stage erected in front of the sound booth on the floor. With confetti and streamers falling from the sky, it was an assault on all senses as everyone in the arena had their heads turning and eyes wandering everywhere. Since 2010, Arcade Fire have honed in their skills in filling an arena with sound as they did on their massive Suburbs Tour and have become festival headliners over the years around the world. It is these big rooms that they are now comfortable playing, but they still remember their roots as Win talked about opening up for The Unicorns, who reunited and were one of the opening acts of the night, in 2004 at the very small and now defunct Knitting Factory in Manhattan. For the 90-minutes they were on stage, Arcade Fire burned down the Barclays unlike any band that has played their in the rooms two year existence. As the band retreated to the wings, more surprises would be in store.
On that smaller stage, the paper machet bobble heads returned to dance, this time with a new member, a person dressed as Talking Heads front man David Byrne in his signature giant tux from Stop Making Sense and got the crowd to sing "Psycho Killer." Within that time, the band returned to the stage to announce they had a special guest -- Marky Ramone of The Ramones! Marky would join the band on drums as they covered "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" and "I Wanna Be Sedated." A glorious moment that no one would forget, including Win himself, saying, "Thanks to Marky Ramone. That was a dream come true!" Indeed it was, for everyone. As the band played a handful of songs before closing with the epic, "Wake Up," it was a night and moment that no one in the room will forget. Again, this could be the gig of the year.
Arcade Fire Barclays Center Setlist 8/23/14 As Tweeted By Marky Ramone: