The Scene: Despite the fact that the show (surprisingly) didn’t sell out, when we pulled up just before 7, the line to get inside the 1st Bank Center was HUGE. There must have been a thousand people waiting to get the best spot they could in the GA arena. Proving the mass appeal of Arcade Fire, there were all sorts of folks in the crowd. Lots of uber excited teenagers, some older couples who sat quietly taking it all in, and I did notice several parents who were escorting their kids to the show, and most everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly.
While the GA tickets for the floor sold out within a few days of the onsale, it was the stands that were full when Arcade Fire took the stage. There was plenty of room on the floor once you got twenty or so yards from the stage, and the area behind the soundboard was pretty much deserted. I guess most people felt they were better off with seats rather than cramming onto the floor and struggling to see over the person in front of them.
The Opener: Local Natives. The opening set from up and coming LA band Local Natives was chock full of energy and very well received by the crowd. Their hooky folk pop songs were featured fantastic vocal harmonies that were reminiscent of The Fleet Foxes and, at times, The Shins. The five members of the band shared instruments and I think three different people played drums at some point before they left the stage. While their show was dominated by material from their debut record, Gorilla Manor, they did find time in their 45 minute set to squeeze in a fairly obscure Talking Heads cover. At one point they mentioned that they were a little nervous as it was their first night out on the road with Arcade Fire and they thanked the headliner profusely for the opportunity to play in front of so many fans. You will be hearing more from these guys over the next year or two.
Arcade Fire: As set time approached, the house music was turned up and LCD Soundsystem was pumped into the room in a possible nod to the fact that the last time Arcade Fire was in the Denver area James Murphy and his band opened for them at Red Rocks. At almost exactly 9:15, the lights went down and the crowd went crazy as the trailer from Matt Dillon’s “Over The Edge” played on a giant screen above the stage. As the video faded out, Win Butler and the rest of Arcade Fire walked out onto the stage to kick off their 2011 US tour with a raging rendition of the very fitting opener “Ready To Start” from their Grammy winning album The Suburbs.
The band then took a step back in time and pulled out “Keep The Car Running,” one of the best tracks from 2007’s Neon Bible to keep the crowd chomping at the bit. The song featured Butler on Mandolin and his wife Regine turning the crank of a Hurdy Gurdy while the the drums thundered behind them. Throughout the show, one of the visual highlights was multi-instrumentalist Tim Kingsbury, who was dressed in a white one piece jumpsuit that highlighted his bright red hair as he flailed around the stage.
The first song of the night from the bands 2004 break-out album Funeral was the drum heavy, shout along favorite “Neighborhood #2 (Laika),” which got thousands in the crowd pumping their fists in the air as they were bombarded with a mixture of live and recorded images on the three video screens that towered high above the stage. As he introduced the track “Haiti,” Butler took a moment to tell the crowd that Haitian relief is one of the things that he and his band are most passionate about. In fact, one dollar from every ticket sold on the tour will be donated to Partners In Health and Butler urged the crowd to look up the organization if they had any questions at all about where their money was going. He then went on to tell the crowd about a show that they played just a few weeks ago down in the earthquake ravaged country and stressed the fact that just because it’s pretty much out of the news, doesn’t mean that things are better down there; it’s still pretty horrific.
Though Butler told the crowd that they hadn’t played together in a while (with a few exceptions of course), the eight piece band was remarkably tight and fed of each others energy as they switched instruments and poured their souls into the music. To add to the eye candy of the stage set, Regine spun around the front of the stage trailing ribbons around her and Kingsbury and Bulter’s brother William’s antics were as entertaining as ever. Two mid-set highlights were without a doubt “Sprawl II” from The Suburbs and “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” from the bands debut. The later song featured six of the eight members lined up on the front of the stage playing and singing together.
As the 90 minute set drew to a close the crowd exploded when the first notes of the anthemic “Wake Up” rang out over the PA. The song has been featured during the Superbowl and even as U2’s entrance music on a recent tour and the band nearly brought the house down with an incredible performance that was nearly worth the price of admission alone. After a brief break, they re-emerged for a brief two song encore that was a now and then moment for many longtime fans as they began with “Month of May,” the first single from their recent album and then reached back to close the show with one of the standout tracks from Funeral, “Rebellion (Lies).” Midway through “Rebellion” Win’s brother leaped from the stage while beating a drum and ran out into the crowd like a madman. It was a fitting closing note on one of the most energetic shows I’ve seen in a long time.
Though it seemed a touch short, the show was nothing short of spectacular and left many of us wondering how their could possibly have been an empty seat in the house. Simply put, they left us wanting more and fortunately I should be able to catch them headlining Coachella next weekend.
Setlist: Ready to Start, Keep the Car Running, Modern Man, Neighborhood #2 (Laika), No Cars Go, Haiti, Empty Room, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Rococo, Intervention, The Suburbs, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), We Used To Wait, Wake Up
Encore: Month Of May, Rebellion (Lies)
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: A