Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem and Wild Light
Hollywood Bowl, September 20.
By Randall Roberts
There was a moment about three-quarters of the way through Arcade Fire’s victorious show at the Hollywood Bowl last night – I think it was during “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” — when lead singer Win Butler broke into an awestruck smile. He was looking out into the crowd, this mass of bouncing devotees who knew all the words to all their songs. It wasn’t a huge, toothy smile. Just a little grin of wonder, as though he’d just been whispered some particularly good news, or read a brilliant passage in a novel. I have a general idea of what he was thinking: “Whoa. Oh my god. Whoa.”
Raving about a live Arcade Fire show at this point is like writing about how cute kittens are. We know, we know. It’s like, how many superlatives can you pile on top of one another before the whole thing collapses? So let’s leave it at this. You know that feeling you get when a magical combination of notes transforms into a melody, travels into your ears, hits the sweet spot of your eardrums, passes into your brain and has a massive orgasm in your head? When everything – work sucks, I’m broke, I’m lonely, did I remember to feed the cats?, I think I have to go pee, maybe they need a cellist – vanishes and the music becomes you?
(Photos by Timothy Norris)
Those moments, even under the best of circumstances, usually last a few seconds before epiphany gives way to brainchatter and you’re back on planet Earth. Well, last night was tantric. At one point I stopped, looked up at the sky, and felt totally at one with the universe. A plane was passing overhead. It moved through a thin veil of clouds, disappeared, then reappeared. On another night, or at a different moment, big frickin’ deal. Last night, a plane moving gracefully through the sky was as beautiful as a haiku, seemed designed for the moment. It was an odd, otherworldly sensation, like I was, in Butler's words, “between the click of the light and the start of the dream.” Whoa. Oh my god. Whoa.
Where does music come from? Why does it come, and to what end? How can one band touch heaven while a million others can barely touch their toes? Ah, sweet mystery. If you were there, chances are you get it. If you weren’t, or have never seen them, forget it, you wouldn’t understand. But I’ll say this: if you’re a jazz fan, imagine witnessing firsthand a John Coltrane solo. A classical nut: you’re in Rachmaninoff’s living room while he’s at the piano. You’re driving Hank Williams around while in the back seat he’s working out the lyrics to “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Dylan in the basement with the Band. James Brown rehearsing cues with the Famous Flames. Patti Smith at CBGB. The Clash at the Bond.
The Arcade Fire at the Hollywood Bowl.
Hyperbole? Perhaps. But you know what? Kittens are adorable no matter how often you say it. And the Arcade Fire ruled the universe last night. Whoa. Oh my god. Whoa.
(Oh yeah, and LCD Soundsystem opened. They were excellent. On any other night with any other band, they’d have stolen the show. But last night wasn’t any other night. And we missed Wild Light, but wouldn't wish the first slot on that double bill on our worst enemy.)
All photos by Timothy Norris.
Review by Randall Roberts.