The Arcade Fire is the greatest arena rock band on the planet

Categories: Last Night

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Jim Bricker for Houston Press.
The Arcade Fire earlier this month in Houston.
The bar across the street from the Pepsi Center is a menagerie. The Arcade Fire show has just ended, and I am talking to a woman named Sarah who is dressed as a blackbird. Her husband, Tom, is wearing a fire-print onesie and a furry hood with ears. He has a gold plastic sign hanging around his neck that says, "HOT PUSSY." Sarah made Tom's costume last year for a Phish concert. That went just okay. There was a costume contest, and Tom got 63 votes. The winner got thousands.

Tom and Sarah mostly go to jam-band shows, but they like the Arcade Fire. When they went to buy their tickets for tonight's show, they saw the red notice below the price, which appears when you buy tickets for any stop on this tour: "Please wear formal attire or costume." So they did.

"At first it seemed stupid," says Sarah, "but it was fun." They are better prepared than most of the people at the bar. Tom may not have made much noise at the Phish show, but here he's such a novelty that, despite the general prevalence of costumes/formalwear, people are coming up and asking to take pictures with him. Jam bands are way ahead of indie rock when it comes to audience participation.

Still, everyone agrees that the formal attire/costume directive is an attempt to avoid the clock-punching sameness that makes many arena shows so hollow. "Hello, insert city name! You're looking wonderful tonight!" the pop star might as well literally be saying.

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Isa Jones

And here we are now, in the bar across the street, because the Arcade Fire has just played the kind of show that cannot be the end of the night. The guy sitting across the aisle from me was technically dressed up. He wore a fat tie and mismatched shirt with colored pants and a thin leather jacket. His hair was unruly. He would have been met with uncomfortable sidelong glares in, say, a country club. But not at this show. At this show, he did not dance so much as speak in tongues, and the people around him either followed his lead or looked on with sincere admiration. The Arcade Fire is well equipped to accompany this sort of rapture. As the great Chris Gray noted in his review of Houston's Reflektor tour stop:

Some bands build songs out of a handful of chord changes, but Arcade Fire prefers to start with a simple musical figure -- a rhythm, a riff, a two- or three-note bass line -- and compound it to the Nth degree. On the intensity scale, they tend to start at "up" and finish somewhere in the stratosphere.

"It was life-affirming," says Hot Pussy Tom. So whether it was the dress code or the music or simply the fact that this is a band that feels concerned about potentially alienating its fans in the arena setting, the Arcade Fire has suceeded in making every show special.

It's a leap from "life-affirming" to "greatest arena rock band on the planet," I admit. And maybe that title is faint praise anyway, in an era when there are basically an infinite number of bands and the social media necessary to build a culture around every tiny star. Maybe you could replicate the experience of seeing the Beatles at Red Rocks if BuzzFeed put together a bunch of wide-eyed animals with health problems to poke away at toy instruments.



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51 comments
James Beecher
James Beecher

Apparently, no one at Westword has seen Phish live and in Person!

Tyler Hawkins
Tyler Hawkins

No way. Miley Cyrus clearly has that on lock.

Joe Cherry
Joe Cherry

That band can't hold a candle to Maiden.

Joe Cherry
Joe Cherry

Or a barn dance. You know, whatever.

Patrick O'Smitty
Patrick O'Smitty

greatest arena rock band, is that supposed to be a complement?

Seth Lichtenstein
Seth Lichtenstein

Hahaha. Oh my God. If those bands are the standards, then I'm ecstatic that Arcade Fire don't make the list.

nolongerafan
nolongerafan

you should read that interview with win butler in rolling stone, turned me off from them completely, he's such an arrogant prick

Scott Happel
Scott Happel

Right, because it's impossible to have seen them live and not believe they are the best arena rock band? I like them fine...but calling them the best anything is silly hyperbole.

Andy Maroney
Andy Maroney

Meh. My all-time best arena show was actually held in a soccer field... Potzdamer Platz. Roger Waters (& friends), Berlin, July 21, 1990. You will not top that.

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

I've seen motley crue 6 times, each show was awesome

Scott Raile
Scott Raile

I saw Motely Crue in 1984 and they sucked; they were all so wasted they couldn't do anything.

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

Did you see nine inch nails a few months ago?

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

No, if you think so you've never seen kiss in concert, or tool, or didn't see the wall either time it was in Denver, or motley crue in the early days, or even Madonna on her last tour, or pink even. Arcade fire isn't in that class at all nor will they ever be. They can't even sell out an arena.

Adam Aedro Drotar
Adam Aedro Drotar

20 people in a band that makes music that sounds bad for a 5 piece. It's like Mumford and sons but even worse...which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Ossama Hussein
Ossama Hussein

so, i started watching an arcade fire show on youtube just to be sure. yea, idk bout that call, this some cheesedick shit right huur. the closest thing to this that i could bring myself to listen to is The Cure. but the Cure was good.

Ossama Hussein
Ossama Hussein

Tool/System of a Down/Roger Waters must be in Arcade Fire now???

Lindsey Dorneman
Lindsey Dorneman

Confirmed by the fact they were selling half price tickets on Groupon....

Patrick Layman
Patrick Layman

If I was married with kids and still pretended the "cool rock game" then yes. That said, Arcade Fire is aight but any relevant discussion ended 10 years ago and once again Westword is hopping on outdated trends driven by piggy piggy hack music bloggers. ZOMGZ Phish is playing in Sept so strap in??!??

Candie Bernard
Candie Bernard

I wasn't certain that I had actually heard any of their songs, so I just listened to "Afterlife." I could not be more underwhelmed.

David Barton
David Barton

Ugh, did someone just make this statement? They're the Dave Matthews of indie music. Will someone please beat up Arcade Fire, or do I have to cross the Divide and do it myself??

Jeremy Coss
Jeremy Coss

It's really all relative in the end. One person will love a show while another will hate it.

Westword Backbeat
Westword Backbeat

Jeremy, whoever wrote the last article you read must not have talked to Hot Pussy Tom.

Ed Haas
Ed Haas

I almost got tickets just to see kid koala. Dude is a beast.

nolongerafan
nolongerafan

true but ya gotta realize westword's target market is 22yr olds with mental deficiencies so they have writers who are as well

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