For me the story of Arcade Fire is quintessentially Montreal. It’s a tale of an underdog band overcoming all odds and gaining success on their own terms. Something I aspire to do with my life. They’ve worked hard and deserve every minute of the adoration they’re getting now.
What with receiving a Grammy, a Juno, a Brit award and now the 2011 Polaris prize for The Suburbs, you wouldn’t expect the band to be so humble and playful and to display pure joy in performing a free show in the place where they got their start. Not only do they raise money for Haiti, they promoted American anthropologist and doctor Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti (and recent book) by bringing Paul Farmer himself onstage to address the crowd of 101,000.
Last night’s free show at Montreal’s Place des Festivals captured that spirit. The band’s members are talented yet quirky. Some of their songs offer moving yet unusual insights (ex: from Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) “And the power’s out / In the heart of man / Take it from your heart / Put it in your hand.”) They love performing. There’s an artistry there and Régine Chessagne and Win Butler especially seem to enjoy the spotlight. The end of last night’s show was truly circus like, with a triumphant Régine spinning around in a hot pink, fringed dress, white inflatable balls tossed in the crowd picking up the colours of spotlights and Will Butler (Win’s brother) tearing apart and stomping on a drum he had been playing only moments before.
I saw Arcade Fire at Osheaga last summer and last night felt as though I was seeing some old friends who were back in town. I love the guitars and tambourines, hurdy-gurdy, violins and pipe organ influences and the choir-like singing the band is famous for – with plenty of ooohs. The songs are emotional and lovely and romantic. Even heartache is captured perfectly (ex: from Ready to Start: “And I guess I’ll just begin again/ You say, ‘can we still be friends?’/ If I was scared, I would/ And if I was bored, you know I would/ And if I was yours, but I’m not” or from We Used to Wait: “Now our lives are changing fast…only something pure can last”).
My friend had to cancel our concert “date” and the guy I was sort of dating didn’t leave his spot in the crowd to join me after I texted him my whereabouts. Arcade Fire’s songs hit the right spot, expressing the bittersweet mixture of sadness and joy I experienced. What a great band and what a great show. I feel truly blessed.
Oh and even if you don’t get a chance to see this band (please do!), be sure to check out this blog to get your Arcade Fire fix.