photos by Dana (distortion) Yavin, words by Andrew Sacher
Arcade Fire @ Barclays Center - 8/24/14
Arcade Fire completed the three-night Barclays Center run of their current tour last night (8/24). Like the first two, Dan Deacon and the reunited Unicorns opened, but this one was extra special because it also included an opening set from New York's legendary Television.
The Unicorns kicked things off early at 7:15 PM, and unfortunately the soon-to-be-filled venue was mostly empty for them, but this rare set (one of six dates they're playing this year) was a treat for those in attendance. They mostly stuck to material from their classic Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, and despite Nick Diamonds and Alden Penner's more "serious" recent projects, they retained all the quirk from their Unicorns days for this show. Alden and Nick both ran around on stage, cracked jokes ("Some people have told us now that they've finally seen us they can die happy ... that is very accurate"), and seemed to be having a genuinely good time on stage playing those old songs. We certainly had a good time hearing them.
Television followed with an excellent set that included half of the classic Marquee Moon ("See No Evil," "Prove It," "Torn Curtain" and it's sprawling title track), but was more of a jammy psychedelic trip than a rehashing of old favorites. The band, whose lineup is 3/4 of the one that recorded Marquee Moon (Jimmy Rip in place of Richard Lloyd), are now almost 40 years past the release of that album and they don't perform all that frequently, but they were dead on last night. The interlocking guitar solos went on endlessly without dragging, and the rhythm section was locked in for all those jams. As improvisational as some of it sounded, parts like the ending of the instrumental break on "Marquee Moon" were exactly like the album. It was as powerful blasting from the stage at Barclays Center as it was the first time you heard it on record.
Immediately after Television's set, Dan Deacon got started on the small stage on the opposite end of the floor, hosting a huge dance competition on Barclays Center's ground floor which ended with the whole floor dancing. A second dance competition was then framed as a battle between Brooklyn DIY venue Death by Audio and NYC print-only show listings publication Showpaper. This was the second recent show we've attended that a now-big act playing to a lot of people in NYC gave props to Death by Audio from the stage (the last was Future Islands). Also spotted dancing in the crowd to Dan Deacon was fellow bald, bearded indie music maker Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav (Dan thanked him at the end). Dan's set was both a fun/funny activity for the crowd and an entertaining precursor to what was to follow.
Arcade Fire then took the stage at 9:30 for a 2-hour set (encore included) which was all thrills. At least in the world of music blogs and music twitter, Arcade Fire have gotten more than a little criticism for the last year or so of their career, which has included an elongated album rollout, lots of costumes, cover songs, and other gimmicks. But last night's show was such a truly good time, you'd have to be bitterly cynical to have been there and felt otherwise. Yes, it is a huge spectacle built for the huge venues they now typically play (this was their third arena show of the weekend in Brooklyn, and all three were full), but they do it without falling into bombast.
One of Arcade Fire's first NYC shows was ten years ago at the tiny Mercury Lounge (October 2004 to be exact). Core members Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury, and Sarah Neufeld were all on stage that night, and impressively they're all still there ten years later. This time around they're joined by multiple other musicians (including sax genius Colin Stetson who you can catch in a more intimate environment at Baby's All Right TONIGHT (8/25)), a few people in paper mache bobblehead masks, dancers, confetti, and an elaborate light show, but they make it all unmistakably their own. The Arcade Fire of 2004 may not have written the dance-heavy "Reflektor" or "Sprawl II," but when the Arcade Fire of 2014 plays them right next to "Rebellion (Lies)" and "No Cars Go," nothing sounds out of place. The setlist was heaviest on Reflektor and lightest on Neon Bible, but it mostly felt like a very well curated collection of the many sounds Arcade Fire have made over the years, each song flowing perfectly into the next.
You know by now that Arcade Fire have been doing location-specific covers on this whole tour, and with NY Dolls' David Johansen (as Buster Poindexter) joining them for a cover of "Hot Hot Hot" on Friday, followed by Marky Ramone joining for two Ramones songs on Saturday, and Television opening last night's show (not to mention Deborah Harry joining them at Coachella), it seemed like a pretty good bet that they'd keep the CBGB theme going for this final show. And they did. But Television, though their opening set fit the theme, did not end up being the guest. Win Butler, like Dan Deacon before him, did point out how amazing it was to play with Television though. In fact, Win said last night's show was the best lineup of bands they ever played with at one show.
Arcade Fire & David Byrne
The CBGB-themed cover ended up being Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream," after a fake-out of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" playing through the PA as The Reflektors mimed the song from the smaller stage at the back of the floor. Nobody from Suicide joined them for this one, but they brought out Talking Head David Byrne (who was also on stage with Arcade Fire almost ten years ago) to sing guest vocals, complete with white face makeup on. It seemed like a good bet that David would be joining them when we heard he was spotted in the building, and we're pretty sure he was even out dancing in a mask to Dan Deacon. (There was a rumor they'd be covering Bruce Springsteen after someone got a hold of the setlist early, uploaded it to setlist.fm, and must have mistakenly not realized Bruce's recording of that song is in fact a Suicide cover.)
"Dream Baby Dream" segued into "Here Comes the Night Time," followed by "Normal Person" (which included Win singing "New York I love you, but you're bringing me down" over the intro, further teasing those of us who were hoping for a James Murphy cameo), and then the show ended with the longest-ever version of "Wake Up." Even after the song's huge ending and the crowd's applause, Win started singing the "whoa-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh" part again as he and the band walked off stage, then the horn players joined back in, and the whole band proceeded to leave the stage in marching band fashion (the same way they had entered the venue 2 hours earlier) playing the song even once the PA was turned off until they fully exited the room.
Pictures of the third and final night are in this post (though unfortunately none of the openers this time). Saturday pictures HERE. Friday pictures HERE. More from Sunday, with a video of the Suicide cover and AF's setlist, below...
Arcade Fire & David Byrne - "Dream Baby Dream" (Suicide cover)
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Joan of Arc
Ready to Start
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
My Body Is A Cage / No Cars Go
It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Dream Baby Dream (Suicide cover) / Here Comes the Night Time