On day 3, you get up and say to yourself “today is the day that I fight my way all the way to the gate. I must be as close as possible to Richard Parry’s red hair and the glockenspiel”. Your friends think you are crazy, but we have a plan. Arcade fire was scheduled to start at 8:30. We were going to 7-11 to get food reinforcements, go to the park, buy numerous waters, be at the gate by 2:30, and wait. To most, this plan for the 3rd day of a festival is equivalent to using the 3 day old port-o-potty after it ran out of toilet paper. Not us! Out of all the amazing music that was available, I was there primarily to see Arcade Fire...not only see them; I wanted to see them from the front row. Over the 6 hours at the gate, we sweated through the sun, endured the overdramatic statements from the Arcade Fire fan club members next to us, dodged crowd surfers, learned to love protein bars, and found someone who would share an umbrella to block the sun.
Let’s back up a little. Officially, Arcade Fire released the Suburbs on August 2nd which I promptly purchased. This album is a return to the suburbs to begin the next stage of life’s journey (settling down, having children, working for the man etc.). What they find is that the American dream can be monotonous, mundane, and painful. The band members are still healing from the grief and loss that they sang about in Funeral. They are working through the passing feelings. Now, the reality is that suburban life just doesn’t fit for everyone. I could not wait to hear this album live. Word on the street is that there is already a drinking game forming where you drink every time Win says “the Kids”.
The sun set and it is 8:30. Arcade Fire exploded onto the stage with Ready to Start. They played old classics like Haiti, Neighborhood #2, and Rebellion (Lies). They played new hits like We Used to Wait, Sprawl II, the Suburbs, and Month of May. The crowd did their homework. They sang along with all the new material and embraced it. When they were on Tour with the National, the National always asked why they never play Crown of Love. In honor of their old tour buddies, they dedicated and played the request. Win Butler, lead singer, mentioned that the last time they were in Chicago it was before Obama was in office. He thought that there was no alcohol aloud pre Obama. About ¾’s of the way through the set, Win said, “Usually at this point in the festival, people are too wasted to be able to make it. You guys are doing pretty good”. He challenged the crowd to go deep in the tank for the next song. The band broke out Neighborhood #3 Power Out. There were so many moments during the set. Regine Chassagne danced with Ribbons. Yet, there was one true star of this show who outperformed everyone. That was Win Butler. Win plays synthesizer, bass, guitar, and percussion. He was the definition of INTENSE! Win constantly was banging on something or jumping up and down. Oddly, I never saw him with his mouth closed. Check the pictures. By far, he was my favorite performer on the stage.
The band played Keep the Car Running and exited the stage. The crowd was not finished with Arcade Fire. They demanded an encore by singing Wake up. Arcade Fire answered the call and returned for their final song. Win said, “This is our last song. I want them to be able to hear this at the space station”. I think they did. After the show, you could still hear the crowd singing Wake Up as they exited the park.
Arcade Fire was one of those bands that I always loved but I didn’t want to move them into the top five until they proved they were going to sustain and make multiple major contributions to the music scene. Sunday’s performance moved them right into the top five and reiterated what I already knew in my heart. Arcade fire is incredibly talented and they deserve all of the respect and fortunes coming their way. Thank you for an amazing show!