Sunday, November 14, 2004
Had I sat down and written about Friday night's set by Montreal's The Arcade Fire immediately after coming home from it, you'd be reading a bunch of gushing, over the top gibberish. Seriously... it'd have been a stammering, probably embarrassing, hyperbolic freak-out, struggling for new adjectives, paragraphs that boiled down to 'Um... Wow!'.
Two days later, I'm still feeling it, still reeling from it, hardly coming down. It was one of those mouth-opening shows, standing there slack-jawed and smiling from beginning to end, feeling sorry for every single other person in the world who isn't in the room.
At 11:30 on Friday night, 45 minutes before they were due hit the stage, I was actually laying comfortably in bed. I was drained from a long week, from Silkworm the night before, and besides, it was freakin' cold out. Boston was covered in it's first (and far too early) snowfall of the year, but at that very moment, openers The Hidden Cameras were probably on stage over at TT the Bears. I have absolutely no idea where I found the motivation to rise, bundle up, clean the damn snow off my car, and get across the river to Cambridge. Actually, yes I do... it came from here. Their debut album, one of the best of the year. I just had to know if they could possibly, even remotely, recreate it live. And boy, uh, did they ever.
The sold-out crowd was equal parts excited fans, hopeful hipsters, and clueless college students who were there because it was 'the place to be' on that particular friday night. And every single damn one of 'em was swept up in what happened when the seven people on stage broke into the "Whooooooaaaa...oooohhhh!" vocals of "Wake Up", the first song. Seven voices yelling out in unison, it just sounded huge. I've been to TTs more times than I care to recall, and I have never heard a band sound this good, mixed this perfectly. Seven band members, all playing instruments, at times all singing. Drums, strings, keyboard, vibra-muh-phone, guitar, bass, tamborines, motorcyle helmet, accordian... I could hear every single note, every voice. I was just floored.
They actually introduced that first song with "This is our last song, thanks for coming!", and I'm sure there are people who still would have thought they got their money's worth had that been true. Playing and sweating for over an hour, they did mostly songs from Funeral, along with a couple from their self-released debut EP, what may be a brand new one (that's open for debate), and a well-chosen cover.
Y'know, I'm not one for crowds, and I'm the first guy to run screaming from sold-out shows. We were jam-packed into TTs, and as I suffered through 15 minutes of shoulder-to-shoulder pre-set jostling, I wondered if this could possibly be worth it. If anything could be. After midnight, that's when the sloppy drunks come out, and TTs was brimming with 'em. Loud talkers, slurring idiots, rude, jockeying louts. Fortunately, that all disappeared when The Arcade Fire started up. Nothing bothered me from that moment on... I swear, someone coulda been punching me in the neck for the whole hour, and I still would have exclaimed "Best show ever!". Just amazing.
And I recorded the whole damn thing. At this moment, having listened to it nearly a dozen times this weekend, it's the crown of my live collection. It seems logically impossible that their sound, the overwhelming hugeness comin' from that stage, could have been funneled into a little clip-on microphone... but somehow it was. It's a testament to their soundperson Sharon (who used to work at the Middle East) that you can make out every instrument in a single-mic recording. Just genius.
The Arcade FireYou could hear the shouts of pure joy near the beginning of each song, people just letting out an unfiltered "Yeah!!!", like we're at some olde tyme evangelical revival. "Praise The Arcade Fire! Have Mercy!". I love the moment where some guy yells out a perfectly unrestrained "Holy SHIT!". We were all caught up in it... the crowd swaying and smiling and jumping and cheering and appreciating everything in front of us.
I could go on, and on, and on some more. Get me talking about this in person and my eyes'll light up, you'll understand what this show did for me. Amie could tell, and she's making me take her along when they come back "in the dead of winter", as the band said from the stage. A stage they'd already outgrown before they even arrived.
So, yeah, um... Wow!
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
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