Arcade Fire Chooses Pageantry over Music 4/27/14: Recap, Setlist, Photos

arcadefire_winconfetti.jpg
Jason Stoff
Win Butler of the Arcade Fire gets off on confetti. See more photos.

A severe thunderstorm may have been raging outside Chaifetz Arena last night, but within its walls, the Arcade Fire was busy whipping up a different type of shower.

On April 27, 2014, the gazillion-piece band from Montreal made it rain at least five times during its first St. Louis show since 2011. There was no water or dollar bills to be found, though -- this downpour was all confetti. Three bursts during opening song "Here Comes the Night Time," an explosion during "Normal Person" and a blowout during "Reflektor" set up and maintained a party atmosphere that encouraged nonstop reveling, and fans happily complied.

But the deluge of showboating occasionally made us want to hide under the pink umbrella we'd brought in with us.

See also:
- Slideshow: Arcade Fire at Chaifetz Arena
- Arcade Fire Concert Dress Code: The Ultimate Guide
- I Kinda Like It: Tales of an Arcade Fire-Ambivalent Music Journalist

To be sure, the Arcade Fire put on a very visual, memorable affair. The band did an excellent job of incorporating the themes of its October album, Reflektor, into its stage show, showcasing mirrors on the piano, in members' hands and above the stage. There also were two sets of video screens on either side of the stage divided into four parts, forming honeycomb diamonds that echoed the album's poster and graffiti art.

The interesting visuals carried over into band members' attire and dance moves. Vocalist/guitarist Win Butler wore a suit that was inspired by a black-and-white cow; several musicians sported jackets with glow-in-the-dark patterns; and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Régine Chassagne sort of did the Robot, shaking her neon pink fringed wristlets as she danced.

But something about the evening didn't sit well with us. Perhaps it was the mishmash of dress codes that Arcade Fire had suggested fans adhere to (formal wear plus costumes plus fox masks?). Perhaps it was the parade of people in giant bobblehead masks of AF members, Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Perhaps it was the folks in skeleton suits who filmed the band on the main stage before dancing behind Chassagne on a landing near the soundboard toward the back of the arena floor. Perhaps it was how seriously Arcade Fire was taking all of this.

Perhaps it was just that none of this fit together in a way that made the event cohesive. All of it instead rendered the band's interesting, layered music as secondary -- even forgettable -- to the spectacle, which was a shame.

Or perhaps we're just old.

No doubt, the Arcade Fire certainly put on one hell of a carnival for its 5,000-odd fans in Chaifetz: It was a discotheque and frat party rolled into one, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But the monsoon of pageantry that overtook the music left us feeling all wet.

Edited to add: We didn't hate the show; the visuals really were spectacular, and we love a good party. But those elements -- the bobbleheads, the skeletons, the mirrors, the lighting, the weird reflektor man, the self satisfaction emanating from certain band members -- were rather disconnected from each other, even within the light context of a Haitian "Kanaval." The sheer epicness that the visuals tried so hard to achieve jarred our attention away from the music. As we've seen during recent Nine Inch Nails and Taylor Swift tours, even the most obnoxious visual elements will work when there's a common thread among them and when they match the tone and heart of the music. Unfortunately, Arcade Fire's spectacle felt so random that the band's interesting songs took a backseat, becoming almost a non-factor. And with Arcade Fire's near-insistence of a dress code from the moment tickets went on sale, the band obviously was putting the extravaganza first.

Continue to page two for our notes and the setlist.


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20 comments
wump
wump

alibaba is usually the least reprehensible @ the RFT, not on this one.  she is still better than the rest, this is just an excuse to say something vaguely controversial, SCHWING

Eric Peters
Eric Peters

Myself and Jon Ryan attended the show and felt the EXACT same way. You must have overheard our conversation before you wrote this article...

Alicia Hernandez
Alicia Hernandez

I don't know about this... it was a damn good show and from what I've heard much better than the last time they were here (with The National?) You guys may have been the only ones left disappointed.

daniel.sexauer
daniel.sexauer

Something to note..the band requested formal wear OR costumes (and not just formal wear).  I left this show very pleased.  First time seeing them.  Yes it was very visually stunning, but the band sounded great, too.

rachel.isreal
rachel.isreal

You can learn more about the show from the comments than from the actual "review" here, which leads me to paint this as the Fox 2 News equivalent of print.  You make a bold statement in your flashy headline and then do little to support it within the review; ironically, this is what you claim Arcade Fire did in their show but never really support.  Putting aside the comment about the bass, your very few mentions of the actual music are actually strong ("'Rebellion (Lies)' sounded especially strong last night" and attributing the adjective passionate to their cover of "Roll Over Beethoven").  I'm not a die-hard fan who thinks it's impossible for a band I enjoy to put on a bad show.  Restaurant critics can dislike an establishment and some people will still patronize and enjoy their meals regardless; however, this review is the equivalent of a restaurant review proclaiming that the taste of the food is lost based on what the wait staff is wearing and never really mention what was served.

romancandle82
romancandle82

Good review. I went in with low expectations. They were phenomenal when I saw them in Dallas during their Suburbs tour. It was a real "rock" show. Theatrics are a distraction from the music. The majority of the audience enjoyed it but it left me uninterested. The excitement was not there. They played the same songs from the previous records as the last time I saw them. It should be noted every album was well represented except for Neon Bible.

apocallipses
apocallipses

It didn't seem that they took it that seriously when Win said before the encore "If you're selling out thirds of arenas, you've gotta keep it professional!"

Adam G. Breeze
Adam G. Breeze

Any word on Kid Koala's setlist (really liked the first track)

Joshua Sydney-Smith
Joshua Sydney-Smith

They were fantastic. I loved the set list spanning all the albums. Asking for any level of dress code makes most people make a bit of an effort I felt. I mean I didnt see a single cardinals shirt, the go to out fit for all st louisans!

Jeff
Jeff

This show was way better than the 2011 show at Saavisscotttradekiel. They were really tight last night and the sound was phenomenal for an arena show.

ut_4_me
ut_4_me topcommenter

WTF?  Telling us what a band and their fans wore is not a review.

Robby Sappington
Robby Sappington

tells me that even with your prestigious multimedia pass that got you one of the best seats in the house, you decide to complain about factors that are completely irrelevant to them absolutely crushing Chaifetz. If you go to concerts to worry about what others are wearing or how they are enjoying themselves, you are completely doing it wrong........

Riverfront Times
Riverfront Times

The fact that "one line" (actually, there are, like, three) is about the music may tell you something. Also, our writer is an old lady, not an old man.

Robby Sappington
Robby Sappington

well when only ONE LINE of your entire review is about the actual music.... i think you take their antics much more serious than they do. Next time a world class band plays in your front yard you might not want to tell them to Get off your Lawn old man

Matt Harnish
Matt Harnish

I missed it! Did Wayne Butler go out in the crowd in the giant hamster ball?

ut_4_me
ut_4_me topcommenter

@Jeff  Thank you Jeff.  You just gave me more of a review in 2 sentences then that clown Allison Babka was able to manage in two pages.

allison.babka
allison.babka topcommenter

@ut_4_me @Jeff Next time, I will give you sparklers and candy and offer explanations for all of "Lost's" mysteries.

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