Live: The Arcade Fire Basically Own Madison Square Garden Now


Arcade Fire/Spoon
Madison Square Garden
Wednesday, August 4

Gold medal, stage banter, 2010: “I have to say my favorite part of Madison Square Garden is this area right over here,” announces Win Butler, gesturing toward a spot to his right maybe halfway back into the general-admission pit seething on the floor before him. The people he’s pointing at are thrilled at the compliment, until… “But that’s only because that’s where Hakeem Olajuwon blocked John Starks in game six for the Houston Rockets to win!” Shock, revulsion, rampant boos, band launches into “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out).” Amazing.

I don’t want to get all zeitgeist-y on you people, but Arcade Fire played Madison Square Garden, and, like, filled it, both with rapturous fans (the chorus to “Wake Up” was full-participation soccer-stadium euphoria) and the chaotic enormity of their sound, nine extraordinarily chipper and energetic people tossing instruments (giant drums! bullhorns on sticks! a hurdy-gurdy!) back and forth seemingly at random (Régine Chassagne in particular reminded me of when a showoff baseball player tries to play all nine positions, an inning at a time), their vaguely arena-sounding indie rock magically turning into actual arena rock. This means something. A paradigm shift, a generational cataclysm. Did we win? Did we lose? Who’s “we”?

The point is they sounded like they belonged there, and were treated as such. Tonight’s high points were just deliriously, deliriously high: Régine pirouetting through a fizzy, thrashing “Haiti”; Win looming over the limb-flailing GA pit and shouting the climactic commands of “No Cars Go” (“Women and children? Let’s go!”) into a mic held by a crowd member; the abrupt “Crown of Love” transition from pearls-clutching torch song to deranged disco anthem. The pandemonium only flagged during a handful of new tracks from The Suburbs, but even those fared alright: The way-less-ponderous “Rococo” bolstered by two full-kit drummers bashing away beneath some overzealous lighting, “Month of May” fast and cheap and out of control, elegant mega-anthem “We Used to Wait” the obvious keeper. Stuff from Funeral dwarfed everything, though — these guys were huge enough to fill stadiums at the onset. Just had to wait for the people.

So yes, even if you hate the Arcade Fire (hopefully you’ve at least tried not to), it’s awfully hard not to find this impressive, that they can fill this joint (twice! have fun tonight, Terry Gilliam!) and invite Spoon along for a 15-song (!!) set only slightly less triumphant, that band’s wonky minimalist stuff (“Nobody Gets Me But You,” say, or the double-piano rant “The Ghost of You Lingers”) somehow just as grandiose and anthemic as their actual quasi-pop songs. Plus peripheral AF dude Owen Pallett opening with orchestral-prog looped-violin soundscapes, echoing in an oddly beautiful way within a then-half-empty basketball stadium, a small but rapt crowd looking on, standing right at the spot where Hakeem Olajuwon once denied John Starks. Yep, this is arena rock now. Splendid.

Set Lists:

Arcade Fire
“Ready to Start”
“Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”
“No Cars Go”
“Half Light II (No Celebration)”
“The Suburbs”
“Crown of Love”
“We Used to Wait”
“Neighborhood #3 (Power Lines)”
“Rebellion (Lies)”
“Month of May”
“Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
“Keep the Car Running”
“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
“Wake Up”


“Me and the Bean”
“Nobody Gets Me But You”
“The Underdog”
“Stay Don’t Go”
“Trouble Comes Running”
“The Ghost of You Lingers”
“You in Reverse”
“Don’t You Evah”
“I Turn My Camera On”
“Dont’ Make Me a Target”
“I Summon You”
“Johnathon Fisk”
“You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”
“Got Nuffin”
“Black Like Me”