October 29, 2013
Remember when Arcade Fire sounded like Thunder Road-era Springsteen? They don't sound like that anymore.
Yesterday evening, several thousand bundled Angelenos descended upon a parking lot in Hollywood to hear the Canadian band's new-ish sound. Reflektor, their fourth album, was released yesterday to reviews both fawning and gleefully cruel. But whatever the case, it's what drew everyone to the front of Capitol Records to watch the band play on a rooftop.
So, was it good?
The crowd was certainly ready; they were encouraged to "be a Reflektor," which meant lots of shiny silver and gold outfits. They embraced this spirit -- it helped that it's Halloween week -- and there were many silver jackets, sequins, sparkles, wigs and masks. A few people decorated themselves with CDs, one guy was wearing one of those silver Myler thermal blankets as a cape, and another dude just taped a mirror to his back.
Everyone who got into the event had done so via social media, and at 6pm, the line snaked down partially closed Argyle Street as helicopters hovered overhead. Guests at the Redbury Hotel across Vine stood on their balconies to watch the show, and those who didn't get in were able to see portions of the concert last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The band, all seven of them, came out onto the roof at 6:40, just after sunset, dressed in various gold and silver suits and dresses. They launched straight into the album's title track and lead single, illustrating their now-dancier sound.
While Funeral and Neon Bible featured full-on 'ridin' out tonight to case the promised land' anthems, 2010's The Suburbs found the group in a mellower state of nostalgia. If their first albums focused on taking on the world, The Suburbs went home again.
Reflektor, then, deals with the malaise and isolation of our media-saturated world and the philosophical questions raised by getting older in it. The album thumps more deeply and darkly than their previous work.
Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that it was co-produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundystem, who gave the LP a foundation of four on the floor synth, with moments of Black Keys-ish blues guitar rock.
Live, it was good, if not ultra engaging. The sound quality was solid, considering where the show took place, but as this is Arcade Fire's "club album" it wasn't a perfect setting.
Regardless, the band barreled through much of Reflektor (dedicating "Afterlife" to Lou Reed) as the lights bathing the Capitol Records building behind them changed from yellow to red to purple to orange.
The group dug into the back catalog with "Haiti", announcing that some of the money made from their upcoming tour would go to support the the country, a cause they have long championed.
The band itself even seemed to liven up with this track, doing a full-on polyrhythm drum solo that got the crowd moving. They then played Reflektor's "Here Comes the Nighttime" as a cloud of confetti filled the air and camera cranes swung over the packed audience. It was a media event, to be sure, but a cool one, even by spoiled Los Angeles standards.
"This is one of the most memorable nights of our lives" announced frontman Win Butler at the show's climax, "So we'll just shut up and play the hits."
Perhaps this was a reference to the LCD Soundsystem documentary of the same name? In any case, they proceeded to play "The Sprawl (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" from The Suburbs and "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)", from Funeral, with singer Regine Chassagne waving streamers around and the crowd going wild upon hearing something it knew by heart.
Overheard in the crowd: "I've never been so sad to not be wearing sparkles."
Random notebook dump: The beacon on the tower of the Capitol Records building blinks morse code for "Hollywood".
Full tracklist below!
Arcade Fire, performing as The Reflektors, play the Hollywood Palladium tomorrow evening.
Don't forget to check our constantly-updated Los Angeles Concert Calendar
It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)
You Already Know
Here Comes the Nighttime
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Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)