My introduction to The Arcade Fire came through a webcomic called Questionable Content; the author put up a comic about how, at their live shows, one of their members’ entire function was to bang a large drum, dance around, and rock out at appropriate moments.
His name is Will. He did exactly that, and he did it very well. Also there was Richard, who looked a bit like Napoleon Dynamite, had bells attached to one leg and played all sorts of instruments. The two of them fed off the crowd, the music, and each other to produce spontaneous displays of energy and emotion, sometimes with one wrapping the other in a towel while the one being wrapped plays a guitar, sometimes playfighting between songs, or dancing with Sarah, the guest violinist
During “Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)”, they donned motorcycle helmets, grabbed drumsticks, and made noise off of any hard surface, including the plastic cow taped to the kick drum, the proscenium, the motorcycle helmets, each other, the glockenspiel on stage, and ending with Richard perched atop a chair drumming his sticks off each other while Will looked around, then tackled Richard, crashing down to the floor, where they wrestled for a bit before slumping, drained from the exertions and the emotional content of their performance. Moments afterward, they rose, embraced, and prepared to launch into the next piece. And this was the second song.
They followed it up with a pair from their ealier EP, before leading into a new song and then the mostly-French “Haiti”. The band infused their songs with life, both by virtue of simply being there and pure musicianship, and despite their claims to have “never really toured before”, the band knew how to get and keep a crowd moving. “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” provided a breather before “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)” segued into “Rebellion (Lies)”, and the normally stonefooted Vancouver hipster crowd became a sea of bobbing heads and twisting bodies, abandoning themselves to the emotionally charged music and mirroring the actions of the band, who, despite looking like they were going to
pass out at any moment, powered through, taking a well deserved rest before “Neighbourhood #4 (7 Kettles)”.
The show closed with the energetic “Crown of Love” and “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)” which featured the crowd singing to the band, and Will wrapping Richard’s head in a towel before simply collapsing.
Hampered by a midnight curfew, the encore almost didn’t happen; luckily, the band waited patiently for the filler music to stop, dancing to it while they waited, before surprising us all with a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Naive Melody”. Another round of applause and trepidation went by before the band assumed their positions for “In The Backseat”, the last song on the album and a fitting, cathartic closer to an emotional show.
After the concert, I walked out of the Commodore; sweaty, hoarse, exhausted, and wearing a ridiculous grin. I wasn’t alone in doing so.