Review: Arcade Fire live at the Bank of America Pavilion

More photos by Scott M. Lacey.

Last night, while his band was playing a song from their still-not-technically-out-yet album The Suburbs, Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler looked up and must have seen a fairly large number of fans walking through the aisles away from the stage. “Bathroom break?” he asked between verses.

Butler sounded like he was half-joking when he said it, but at the same time, his quip highlighted the difficult position Arcade Fire were in on Sunday. They’ve got a whole new album’s worth of songs to play, but the folks who filled the Bank of America Pavilion still just want to hear the old favorites. Indeed, reaction to the new material seemed polite and muted while most of the set’s emotional highpoints came during older songs. “Sorry to confuse you with all of this new stuff,” Butler said just before launching into a one-two punch of classics from 2004’s Funeral, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and “Rebellion (Lies).”

Butler didn’t need to go so far as to apologize, though, as there were a few Suburbs songs that resonated. “Ready to Start” made for a fine set opener, and “Month of May” came off much better in the live setting than it does on record. The title track also sounded sweetly summery, especially on a night free of the oppressive heat that’s marked the past month. “The Sprawl II,” which the band was playing for the second time ever, was an outstanding showcase for the talents of Regine Chassagne, who was handily the most charismatic performer on the entire stage (and there were nine of them). On the two songs that featured Chassagne on lead vocals, she became the de facto bandleader, practically conducting the ensemble using her body as a baton, timing each movement to a drum hit, keyboard flourish, or guitar fill.

“The Sprawl II” came immediately after Chassagne did “Haiti,” a song from Funeral that has gained a great deal more resonance in the past year. Chassagne, who is of Haitian descent, reached a level of intensity that built nicely upon the one reached during the purely anthemic “No Cars Go,” which preceded it. Unfortunately, those were the fifth and sixth songs of the set, which led me to worry the band had expended too much energy too quickly and would be unable to reach those heights again. Yet they did, particularly during the proper set closer “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” which was accompanied by the image of lightly falling snow projected onto the big screen behind the band.


Ready to Start
Month of May
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Sprawl II
We Used to Wait
Modern Man
The Suburbs
Deep Blue
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (Lies)
Half Light II
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Keep the Car Running
Wake Up

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