Arcade Fire made it official at its Friday night concert at DAR Constitution Hall—the band has made it to the big time, and the show reflected it.
Once a band that could wow audiences based on the pure grit, charisma, and passion of its performances, Arcade Fire’s gone all in with a spectacularly produced show that involves neon lights, band members’ faces projected on screens, and a light show that could—and probably one day will—fill an arena.
But through the professional slickness of the show, the 10 band members proved that their music is still all about emotion, energy, and drawing in the audience with a pure, cathartic rock-and-roll experience. They also proved that, though 2007’s Neon Bible was a lofty and moving album, the band is still at its most moving when playing material from its 2004 breakthrough masterpiece, Funeral. The concert also proved that, unless you’re in the first few rows, the 3,700-seat Constitution Hall probably isn’t the best place to see a concert by one of today’s best musical acts, especially if the crowd around you isn’t willing to stand up and rock out.
Opening with a thunderous version of “Black Mirror,” Arcade Fire raced through nearly an hour and a half of majestic rock, with the band members (which include percussionists, vocalists, violinists, and even a French-horn player) trading spaces on stage, throwing tambourines into the air, and screaming along to lead singer Win Butler’s vocals.
While the songs from Neon Bible were well-played, that album's tunes are quieter and lack the raucous, emotional crescendo that characterize so many of the songs on Funeral. With the concert frontloaded with the more somber material from Neon Bible, the atmosphere of the first half of the set, while electric, didn’t reach the heights of Arcade Fire shows I’ve seen in years past.
But the evening truly erupted when, halfway through, Butler sheepishly said, “Apologies in advance to the security guards, but c’mon, everybody, come on down. You’ve got to dance to this.” The crowd didn’t need to be asked twice—fans on the floor poured into the aisles and started dancing and screaming while the band blew into ““Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” a majestic, melodic tune from Funeral that segued seamlessly into ,"Rebellion (Lies),” a pulsating song that made the revelers on the floor throw their arms up and dance like DC audiences don't often do.
The night ended with Butler imploring the audience to sing along with an anthem-like performance of “Wake Up.” As the crowd sang along rapturously with hands raised and the band sang joyously back, it wasn’t hard to see why Arcade Fire is one of the most important and best live acts out there. And you probably won't have to worry about seeing the Arcade Fire in the inhibiting venue of DAR again—because, before you know it, they'll be playing an arena near you.