Arcade Fire incendiary in Memphis

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Arcade Fire
Orpheum Theatre
Memphis, TN
April 28, 2011

It’s one thing for a band to have critical acclaim. There are plenty of acts who are darlings of the music press, but never quite catch on with the public.

Other musicians, for one reason or another, have huge followings but amount to little in the way of musical ability.

AF2.jpgIt’s a rare beast that has both critical and commercial success, and Arcade Fire is one of those animals. They played their first Memphis show at the close of April, and demonstrated to all in the sold-out Orpheum Theatre that they deserve the praise that has been heaped upon them.

Touring behind The Suburbs, 2011’s Grammy-winning Album of the Year, Arcade Fire put on a show that’s nothing if not a spectacle – it was a total concert experience. With a huge video marquee mounted above a giant screen, strands of flags hung across the stage and  lights flashing from all angles, their rock show is a visual torrent, a sight to behold.

The show sold out fast; after the first day of the on-sale, tickets were scarce. The packed audience included all walks of life, from young hipsters to a dude in a tuxedo to millionaire giants – the San Antonio Spurs’ Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner, in town for the NBA Playoffs, took in the show from the floor (too bad for whoever had the seat behind the 6’10” Bonner.)

With the treble-y guitar intro of “Ready To Start,” the show got…well…started. It took a little for the crowd to get warmed up, but the band had a ton of energy from the start, and powered right on into “Keep The Car Running,” which started to get the packed crowd juiced. There were two rows of temporary chairs set up over the orchestra pit for the lucky few who were able to score front-row seats, and by the time “Keep The Car Running” was half-way through, the audience had begun to encroach on the real estate of the front two rows.

AF12.jpgOver the course of the night, the band fired through their selections from their three-disc catalogue at a rapid pace, but the crowd may have reacted most to a cover of Jay Reatard’s “Oh, It’s Such A Shame.” Frontman Win Butler took a few moments to speak about the local musician, whose untimely passing in January, 2010 saddened the band. Butler finished his comments with a sentiment that most in the crowd probably shared: “We miss him.”

The band juxtaposed softer songs with high energy all night, going from the frenetic “Empty Room” to the slower “Rococo” to the brash “Month Of May” over a short stretch. Arcade Fire generates a ton of sound, and over it all, the crowd shouted lyric after lyric, joining in with the band as if they were a massive chorus of backup singers.

By the time the band got to the title track from the new disc, the crowd was pretty much eating out of the palm of the bands’ hands. As the band went through the tune, the Spike Jonze video played on the giant screen behind them.

AF22.jpgTo close out the set, the band ran through “Rebellion,” by the end of which multi-instrumentalist (and really, the entire band can be categorized as such) Richard Reed Parry had beaten a hole through his snare drum. Whether it was raw emotion or pure showmanship, it was pretty awesome to witness.

After a brief encore break, the band re-emerged for a great take on the hit from their first disc, “Wake Up,” and closed the night with “Sprawl II.”

There’s not a lot to say about Arcade Fire that hasn’t already been said. This is one hell of a talented band. They all play pretty much every instrument, hopping from bass to guitar to piano to drums and not losing a step. All contribute on vocals with equal aplomb…in the truest sense, this is a band, and one to be reckoned with.

While Arcade Fire may have graced Memphis with a show in the 2,400 seat Orpheum this time around, they really do put on a show worthy of much larger venues. Memphis got a real treat, because seeing them in a venue of this size isn’t likely to happen again.

Set: Ready to Start, Keep The Car Running, Haiti, Oh It’s Such A Shame, No Cars Go, We Used To Wait, Empty Room, Rococo, Month Of May, Neighborhood #2 (Laika), Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Intervention, The Suburbs, The Suburbs (Continued), Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), Rebellion (Lies)

Encore: Wake Up, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

Click the thumbnail to view the photo gallery by Josh Mintz

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