Photos by David Rubene
I’m really not sure that I have a bucket list of bands to see anymore. I’ve seen pretty much all of the acts I could ever dream of seeing and then some. That being said, there are bands that announce dates here in the Twin Cities that I instantly get that, “Oh shit! I would love to see them! Can’t miss that!” feeling. Arcade Fire is one of those bands and last night was my chance to see them.
The show was opened up by The Breeders. I’m not going to lie and try to sound cool– I had no idea who this group was and only recognized one song. Now that I have done some research, I’m coming to realize just how big of a deal being able to see The Breeders live was. They are fronted by Kim Deal. Does that name sound familiar? It definitely should. Kim is from The Pixies (she left the group a couple of years ago). I knew I recognized the voice as I sat there listening to their set last night but, due to a “in the round” style show (more on that later), I never got a good glimpse of the members of this band other than the blurry and distanced video that was playing on the huge screens in the center of the arena.
The Breeders’ music was very grunge-esque so finding out that they formed in 1989 definitely made sense. The sound was raw and unpolished but it fit perfectly with the informal feeling concert. Although they were playing in an arena, the show had elements of personality that you would expect to see at a small club show. There were mistakes here and there, long breaks between songs as the musicians switched instruments and tuned, and there was a whole lot of heart. I couldn’t tell if the group was playing an old song or a new song which was refreshing considering a lot has changed since the 1990’s. I loved the fact that, even though everything has changed in the music industry and with music itself, there’s still a band out there that has stayed true to the grunge era and is forging ahead regardless of what’s trending right now. Also, let’s be honest… grunge can never go out of style. It was super nice to have a reminder of that.
The stage change-over between The Breeders and headliner Arcade Fire was a bit long but, because of the stage placement, it made sense. Let me set the scene for you. The Xcel Energy Center is your typical arena. If you’ve ever watched sportsball from Minnesota (specifically the Wild– our hockey team) you’ve seen the Xcel. Typically the stage is set up at one of the ends of the oversized arena but not last night. Last night the stage was smack dab in the middle of the floor allowing fans to swarm around it. I wasn’t too impressed by the set up because during The Breeders’ set all I could see was the back of their heads but I was optimistic about what was to come. I watched in awe of the coordination and orchestration of changing the stage over to get ready for Arcade Fire. Drums were being lifted off the stage and carried directly through the crowd to a closed off section. Finally, the lights went down and I shot up from my seat with this sense of excitement that I didn’t know I had in me after a long weekend of shows and drinking.
As loud music started playing through the speakers, everyone started looking every which way trying to figure out where the band was going to come from. I spotted a camera crew towards the entrance to the floor near my seat and waited patiently for something to happen. After a couple minutes of hype music, I watched as the nine members walked out (from where I expected) and continued to walk straight through the crowd towards the stage. The big screens that were hanging from over the stage were playing a video making it feel like each member was gearing up for a boxing match. Along each side of the stage were ropes making the stage feel like a boxing ring (they lost the ropes a couple songs into the set). I got the theme and, although I wasn’t quite sure of the correlation to the music, I loved the idea.
The band wasted no time and, once they got to the stage, they jumped right into what turned into a nearly twenty song set followed up three song encore. This Canadian indie band has a truly unique sound. I like to consider them the jam band of the indie scene. With so many members and so many instruments, there are always far too many layers in their music to count leaving you with a deep and interesting sound. Beyond the sound with that many people in the band, watching them all perform together is amazing. There’s a sense of chemistry between all of the members but they also all seem to be doing their own thing. The constant switching of instruments matched the way the members would walk around the square stage throughout the set. Every time I looked up, there was a different member on the side of the stage facing me and there was something new to watch keeping the members of the audience on their feet with their eyes glued to the stage.
The lights during Arcade Fire’s set were intense and all over the place. With some that shot out from the stage, some shooting in towards the stage and then two giant disco balls on either side of the arena, there was constantly a light in your face (although it was never too harsh). As the lights danced around the arena, so did the crowd. The younger kids who had made their way close to the stage were jumping up and down to the beat. In my section, everyone stood the entire show and danced their way through the lengthy set with a smile on their face and the lyrics flowing out of their mouths. For a band that started in the whole “underground indie” world– it’s quite amazing to see just how far this band has come. They started at the little clubs that I frequent on a daily basis and now, here they are playing an arena show with thousands of people singing along.
With five albums that span their sixteen year career, Arcade Fire did an amazing job of picking what songs to play. They didn’t just play songs off their newest release “Everything Now”, but they also didn’t just play the old hits that everyone clearly wanted to hear. They had a mix and somehow caught every hit song and every B-side that I wanted to hear. From the first note of “Everything Now” and until the final chord of “Wake Up” rang out, there was an electric energy in the air from this group leaving the crowd ranting and raving as they left the arena and scattered into the cold and rainy October air.
I’d like to think I’ve seen everyone live that I could ever want to but, the truth is, my list is never ending. There are bands that I have listened to in passing throughout the years and, although I wouldn’t consider them to be on my bucket list, they are still bands I would love to see live. Arcade Fire is one of those bands and, after seeing them perform last night, I’m starting to wonder why they weren’t on my bucket list.