A severe thunderstorm may have been raging outside Chaifetz Arena last night, but within its walls, the Arcade Fire was busy whipping up a different type of shower.
On April 27, 2014, the gazillion-piece band from Montreal made it rain at least five times during its first St. Louis show since 2011. There was no water or dollar bills to be found, though -- this downpour was all confetti. Three bursts during opening song "Here Comes the Night Time," an explosion during "Normal Person" and a blowout during "Reflektor" set up and maintained a party atmosphere that encouraged nonstop reveling, and fans happily complied.
But the deluge of showboating occasionally made us want to hide under the pink umbrella we'd brought in with us.
To be sure, the Arcade Fire put on a very visual, memorable affair. The band did an excellent job of incorporating the themes of its October album, Reflektor, into its stage show, showcasing mirrors on the piano, in members' hands and above the stage. There also were two sets of video screens on either side of the stage divided into four parts, forming honeycomb diamonds that echoed the album's poster and graffiti art.
The interesting visuals carried over into band members' attire and dance moves. Vocalist/guitarist Win Butler wore a suit that was inspired by a black-and-white cow; several musicians sported jackets with glow-in-the-dark patterns; and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Régine Chassagne sort of did the Robot, shaking her neon pink fringed wristlets as she danced.
But something about the evening didn't sit well with us. Perhaps it was the mishmash of dress codes that Arcade Fire had suggested fans adhere to (formal wear plus costumes plus fox masks?). Perhaps it was the parade of people in giant bobblehead masks of AF members, Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Perhaps it was the folks in skeleton suits who filmed the band on the main stage before dancing behind Chassagne on a landing near the soundboard toward the back of the arena floor. Perhaps it was how seriously Arcade Fire was taking all of this.
Perhaps it was just that none of this fit together in a way that made the event cohesive. All of it instead rendered the band's interesting, layered music as secondary -- even forgettable -- to the spectacle, which was a shame.
Or perhaps we're just old.
No doubt, the Arcade Fire certainly put on one hell of a carnival for its 5,000-odd fans in Chaifetz: It was a discotheque and frat party rolled into one, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But the monsoon of pageantry that overtook the music left us feeling all wet.
Edited to add: We didn't hate the show; the visuals really were spectacular, and we love a good party. But those elements -- the bobbleheads, the skeletons, the mirrors, the lighting, the weird reflektor man, the self satisfaction emanating from certain band members -- were rather disconnected from each other, even within the light context of a Haitian "Kanaval." The sheer epicness that the visuals tried so hard to achieve jarred our attention away from the music. As we've seen during recent Nine Inch Nails and Taylor Swift tours, even the most obnoxious visual elements will work when there's a common thread among them and when they match the tone and heart of the music. Unfortunately, Arcade Fire's spectacle felt so random that the band's interesting songs took a backseat, becoming almost a non-factor. And with Arcade Fire's near-insistence of a dress code from the moment tickets went on sale, the band obviously was putting the extravaganza first.
Continue to page two for our notes and the setlist.