Arcade Fire On Fire

arcade-fire-launch-tour-at-roy-wilkins.5388112.87 photo by Stacy Schwartz

Last night Dash and I went to see Arcade Fire with Lady Tabouli and Mr. Lady Tabouli and again, at the risk of sounding like an undiscerning gusher (don’t I always do this when I see live music? I know I do), they knocked our socks off! In fact, not only did our eight collective socks get knocked off, they got blown out of the auditorium, down the corridors, out the door and are dangling from high wires outside of Roy Wilkins. Socks fully and completely knocked off. We are sockless. As often happens, a couple factors coalesced to make the show one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life, not the least of which is simply: this band rocks. For real.

I had just finished reading The Road earlier in the afternoon, although the word afternoon seems like a fake cheery cardboard cut-out word for what it really was: dark, sad hours wrapped around the last eighth of a book that left me sobbing, empty, tired. The Road is a post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son’s journey at at time when the world as we know it and all that we recognize as goodness, humanity and hope has been burned, raped, pillaged and left to blow about in a wasteland of gray ash. The book is devastating and beautiful and it stays with you, seeping deep into your skin, changing the color, the taste, the smell of everything around you. Like that ash. It’s incredible. And awful.

So, fast forward thru a cold water splash on the face, dinner and smooches for the kids, a cup of steaming green tea, a chatty minivan ride with our pals, burgers and cocktails, a hilarious three block dash through the rain until finally we bust onto the spectacle that was Arcade Fire. Keep in mind, I’m still wiggy from The Road – I’ve got it weighing on my chest through the giggling and leaping over puddles, and then all of a sudden, my jaw drops and all I see is this huge band (8 of them!) with this HUGE sound, and all I can think is: Perfection. It’s fucking perfection.

We are swallowed up whole.

They look like Mad Max meets thrift store meets Project Runway. Survivors and journeymen, championing beauty with powerful music and haphazard sartorial flourishes. Glittery dresses and combat boots, navy gas station jumpsuits bedazzled with red lightening, tight button down shirts that read as military rock-a-billy, savagely shorn hair and sweat. Sweat every where. Five men and three women going nuts, letting their freak flags fly, holding nothing back and giving us the FULL DRAMA.

They sound like nothing I have ever heard before, singing in strangely uplifting harmonies and running around changing instruments between songs like its musical chairs. Two of the women play electric violins and look like wild fairies as they work their bows and voices into a frenzy. And not for nothing, who gets to sing AND play violin at the same time? Is that even allowed? They were screaming! All of them were. The third woman, Regine Chassagne, a Haitian beauty, was like an angel in a sparkly gold dress and jeweled fingerless gloves singing in her haunting, gorgeously imperfect voice one minute, then wailing on drums, on piano, and killing an accordion the next. The lead singer, Win Butler, sings himself raw, lurching, kicking, climbing and clamboring all over the stage. But what a voice, a voice kind of like Bono’s, a voice that by its limits, by its humanity and earnestness grabs you by the throat and forces you to open your mouth and contribute.

It sounds freaky and it WAS, but make no mistake. These guys are a big stadium rock band. Their songs are anthemic, swelling and crashing like giant waves. Arcade Fire makes you sing and scream and clap your hands. They give you the blood sweat and tears, the blood guts and glory, but it’s smart, breathtakingly technical, complicated, textured and completely modern music. Post modern even. Beyond that, maybe even, dare I say it? Post-apocalyptic! Nah, that’s just me and my Road-tinted glasses, but, man, if there was ever a right band at the right time. For me. My God. There’s a piercing frantic joy that sort of cuts out of these dark and moody chords in their music and it felt so right. Just right. (For real information, like the playlist and an actual musical analysis, go here.)

And speaking of modern, Janelle Monae at First Ave. tonight. Finally!!!! I may swoon, my head may explode. I’m so excited to see her. I have been waiting a long time. A long long time. More gushing tomorrow, I’m sure.

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