Arcade Fire At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, September 12th, 2017, Reviewed
It’s the small details that matter and it is the small details that big bands get bigger when they get it right. Arcade Fire had two opening acts (Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Grandmaster Flash) and still managed to hit the stage right on time, as the band’s “Everything Now” tour reached Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, September 12th. It was one of many gestures the band made to its audience, gestures that are all too rare. The closed circuit TV was immaculate, the images were music video style crosscutting between members of the ten piece band, so wherever you sat, near or far, or standing surrounding the boxing ring in the middle of the auditorium, you had a perfect sightline.
Arcade Fire have been coming in for a lot of headaches over their fine new disco album Everything Now. Though it is hard to remember in 2017, the move from The Suburbs to Reflektor to Everything Now is similar to Talking Heads from Fear Of Music to Remain In Light to Speaking In Tongues. First they perfected their sound, than they left it behind, and now they have commercialized their new sound. But the audience backed off with Everything Now, they felt they were being conned, they felt like they were being trivialized, and they repealed and postponed out of AF’s thought disco. But Arcade Fire a great band who ignore question of sincerity because they’ve earned the right to: one part family and two parts collective all parts fan friendly and good guys. This despite Win Butler’s consistent arrogance (who can forget him throwing a Rolling Stone writer out of his cab in the middle of Paris) being written on his face, we don’t judge rock bands on rock star character or we’d all spend our lives listening to Foo Fighters. They were for real.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band are the old school brass band and gave their little all in a typical half hour show. Grandmaster Flash was not what he should be. For some obtuse reason he decided to ignore his world changing work with the Furious Five –no “The Message” and no “White Lines”. He started with a “how to” 101 on rap film, some of which he certainly did create, and then he spinned 15 minutes of dead icons from Prince to Ray Charles (I think we’re over Ray by now), and then 80s hits from his vinyl collection which, on the strength of this waste of time, is much the same as everybody elses.
The Arcade Fire set was exactly what you think it was, a handful off the new album, a smaller handful off the album before that, and all the hits. Win told us to give money to his other home town, Houston (the telethon was happening as he spoke) before launching into we always knew what it was about anyway “The Suburbs”. If Win is insincere, he is first rate at being insincere. The band were an energetic whirligig of Arena ready rock and disco energizer sounds, I liked Everything Now so I had no problems at all with the new material and with the exception of the missed for no good reason “Keep The Car Running” (Roger Waters should listen to it, that’s how you write about politics) there were no real missteps… Renee’s songs are a little Yoko Ono but I have no kick against em, and the fiddler is an eye catching interest. Win is a great band leader, both on top of the band and on the side of the band at the same time. It has the vibe of a buncha close friends acting out, it. If I have a problem it is that Arcade Fire is too good, if not quite rote than certainly there is no doubt they can turn it on at will. Good. Let em.