Monday night’s Arcade Fire show at the Wells Fargo Center was one of the most spectacularly put together shows we’ve seen in a while. It’s hard to believe that just 10 years ago they were opening for Chromeo in the basement of the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, but indeed a measly decade later they threw down a show of epic proportions at one of the region’s biggest venues.
The show started out with a figure, dressed in a broken-mirrored suit, being lead towards the back of the arena to a second stage, where the opening acts performed. This figure stood in the middle of the small stage and began slowly rotating as a strobe light shone down on them, turning them into what effectively was a human disco ball. Soon after, the main stage lit up and Arcade Fire launched into a lively rendition of their 2013 single “Reflektor”.
The stage itself, once fully illuminated, was something to behold. Even with 12 performers on stage, the band played an extremely tight and controlled set. On either side of the stage a four piece honeycombed screen displayed the artists while various backdrops were introduced throughout the set. Fractured rear projection screens adorned the back of the stage, giving trippy visuals, while an overhead lighting system raised and lowered over the band, adding reflected lighting.
Throughout the first few songs, it was evident that Arcade Fire intended for this to be one big dance party. The tickets billed the event as “formal attire/costume” and many (many, many) fans followed suit, dressing in tuxes, neon yellow suits, capes, tutu skirts, and masks. By the time they ripped through “Rebellion (Lies)”, frontman Win Butler’s brother, William, was jumping from monitor to monitor while banging a drum, leading the crowd in a frantic clap-along.
On “Joan of Arc,” they came out to tons of distortion and feedback, with Win Butler singing relentlessly fast backed by raw percussion, before tearing into the rest of the song. Things then slowed down with “Rococo,” which featured the most haunting vocals and complex melodies of the night. The band then transitioned into a similarly somber rendition of “The Suburbs,” devoid of any flashing lights or visual effects.
A few songs later the band dipped back into some of its older songs, and “No Cars Go” was one of the better songs of the evening. Immediately after, “Haiti”, off of the band’s first LP Funeral, rocked the steel drum and calypso-inspired beat from the studio track, but featured the absolute worst vocals of the show courtesy of Regine Chassagne, who, for some reason, turned to a grating and screaming exuberance for the song.
Towards the end of their main set, Regine retreated back to the second stage, where, flanked by two skeleton-suited figures, she sang back and forth with Win, in what was the most emotive and visually substantial act of the evening.
After a closing song, and a departure from the stage, a ‘fake’ band, “The Reflektors” showed up on the second stage in the middle of the arena, playing Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” Shortly, the real Arcade Fire came back on the main stage, enquiring, “What the hell is that?” and effectively drowned out the track in bass and distortion before playing an encore of “Normal Person.” Next they played a cover song, which they’ve been switching up city-to-city during their tour. And what does Philly get crowned with? None other than a glorious version of Boyz II Men’s first single, “Motownphilly.” This was pretty comical to observe, as half of the crowd was too young to know what the hell was happening, and the other half was too busy dancing along to explain what they were covering. After that, strong versions of “Here Comes the Night Time” and “Wake Up” closed out the show. It was an astounding show both in musical artistry and visual effects, and definitely cemented the band as a new staple of arena rock.
Thanks to @jeremylittau for hooking us up with the tickets.