"Once you've reached Madison Square Garden, you've reached the peak. You're the success story of the day, so one relaxes. There's no where to go, there's no higher, there's only the abyss waiting. So live free, for one night only." -Terry Gilliam on the Unstaged Pre-show video q
a win Win situation (by Jonathan Bayer)
Arcade Fire looked perfectly at home on the stage of Madison Square Garden Thursday night, the second show in their two-night run. At this one, the audience exceeded the nearly-full stadium, with an at-home crowd watching a live stream directed by Terry Gilliam broadcast over YouTube (the live channel has something like 600,000 views currently, though not sure that number means anything).
That bodes well for the band, who are still waiting on the first-week sales numbers for their possible #1, The Suburbs, which came out on Tuesday (and has been on sale digitally for $3.99 at Amazon). At the show, the new record's songs weren't totally unfamiliar. One, "The Sprawl II," even made the encore, and spurred a roar of recognition from the girls in front of me, who informed our cozy section of the song's title (with a peace sign for the two) and described its arc (slow at first, but then really awesome) as it started up. A faulty drum machine forced the band to restart the tune a minute in, allowing a reflective pause for the victory lap in progress.
The band was clearly reveling in the moments of the show. Win Butler sailed into the crowd multiple times, occasionally with his guitar still attached. In one impressive maneuver, the frontman walked along the seated section's railing like a balance beam, before jumping into the general admission pit, tangles of mic cord trailing behind him (a play from the Matt Berninger handbook). The band frequently rotated instruments, with pianos, keys, two drums kits, violins and an array of percussion all playing a part.
The second night's songs were close but not identical to night one's (and both differed from their Boston show a few nights ago). As before, their debut LP, Funeral, provided ripe stadium-level material for the set, filling a little less than half of it. The order changed, but only one new song was swapped outright: "Empty Room" replacing "Half Light II."
For me, the stadium aspect of MSG was kind of a strange novelty. From the distant seats, the experience of watching a band while reclining, huge soda and personal pizza/popcorn/whatever in hand, is in some ways closer to a YouTube stream than a crowded, sweaty live concert. Still, the in-person event had its rewards for those that weren't up front - the band's backdrop for the evening depicted an abandoned bridge overpass, with an rectangular block of lights similar to a football stadium. In front of that was a video screen, mostly likely meant to be a billboard, which projected forms and images for each song. Antiquated ghosts lit up "No Cars Go" and what I can only hope is the video for "The Suburbs" depicted a gang of kids riding bikes in Reservoir Dogs-style slo-mo through an eerie neighborhood development.
And the people: a view-obstructing beer vendor trolling the aisles, a group of teens trying to find someone to buy them beer, an energetic (chemically-enhanced?) man pirouetting around the stadium's perimeter, and thousands of fists raised in unison for the group rite of "Wake Up" (the latter being inspiring or frightening, depending).
and there was confetti...
Owen Pallett started out the night to a minimally filled stadium. "I'm so happy to be playing here for the 200 of you," he joked. Then responding to a heckler, "No, I'm not taking it off, I just got this. Sorry." The empty hall added a nice element of reverb for the people who were there, amplifying the work of Owen's orchestra-in-a-box loop pedal.
Similarly, Spoon sounded great, with help from a horn section and drums borrowed from Phil Collins (both on only a few songs). The band jammed through a taut set with favorites like "Jonathan Fisk" and "I Summon You" taking their place along the new Transference batch. For "No One Gets Me But You," the Roots' Owen Biddle joined to make a two-piece bass section (as he did on Fallon).
Some videos from the show's "Unstaged" live stream are already online. Fan videos too (including a nice close-up of Win in the crowd). The set list, some more picturs from night two (night one are HERE), and those videos are below...
streaming at home (via)
Spoon Night Two by Yvonne Rodriguez
familiar looking crowd member (by Tim Loper)
The Arcade Fire Night Two by Yvonne Rodriguez
Arcade Fire Night 2 by Jonathan Bayer
Outreach at the show (CRED)
Arcade Fire - UNSTAGED: Pre-Show Behind the Scenes
Arcade Fire - Ready to Start (UNSTAGED)
Arcade Fire - Rococo (UNSTAGED)
Arcade Fire - Empty Rooms ft. Owen Pallett (UNSTAGED)
Win going into the crowd at Arcade Fire MSG July 5th, 2010 during "We Used to Wait"
(If you look close you can see him shake hands with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.)
The Arcade Fire @ MSG - 8.5.10 - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Arcade Fire at Madison Square Garden August 5th setlist
Ready to Start
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Crown of Love
We Used to Wait
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)