The Canadian indie rock band, one of the major referents of indie music in the last decade, put on a live performance explosive enough to headline any major music festival.
It was a Wednesday night in Lima, Peru, South America. I was on the way to the concert on a taxi with two friends drinking a stack of cold beers and smoking cigarettes with the windows down. We were on the way to a large park arena in the center of the city. This was my second time watching Arcade Fire play live. The first one was back in 2014 in the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain. The band that revolutionized the independent label industry back in 2004 with their debut album “Funeral.” Every music enthusiast knows the indie anthem “Wake Up”.
Arcade Fire was formed by Win Butler together with his classmate Josh Deu, his wife Régine Chassagne and his younger brother William Butler. Their second album, “Neon Bible”, was released in 2008 and won the Meteor Music Award for Best International Album. Their third album, “The Suburbs”, signified their best critical acclaim and transcended into strong commercial success. And even if the band would go on and win the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year, Win Butler wouldn’t change his sound and identity. A band that has more members than traditional bands divided between percussion, a viola, a French horn, synthesizers, mandolin, accordion, harp, vocals, guitars, saxophones and more, Arcade Fire’s Grammy victory of 2011 over acts such as Eminem, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga symbolized the revolution of alternative music in our time. It pictured a colossal win of independent label music over commercial music and showed the apogee of indie rock in the 2010’s. For this and many more reasons catching a ticket for an Arcade Fire gig is a once in a lifetime experience for a modern indie rocker.
“Children, don’t grow up, our bodies get bigger, but our hearts get torn up.” – Wake up
One of the most melancholic and profound lyrics found in an indie pop song. A song that was also featured in the movie “Where the Wild Things Are” as a reference to the surreal idea of wanting to stay pure as a kid and never growing up. The frontman, Win Butler, is a showman that sings lyrics about loneliness, the importance of thinking with the innocence kids have and how society affects and corrupts us.
“I know a place, where no planes go. I know a place, where no cars go.” – No Cars Go
The idea of staying pure by running away from society reminds me of Holden Caulfield. But the everlasting sadness found in the lyrics written by the band is not a reason to stay sad when seeing them perform. There are so many instruments being played and so many emotions, that when hits like “Sprawl II” come along the audience converts into a dance floor.
“I need the darkness someone please cut the lights.” – Sprawl II
This is the moment when Win Butler leaves the protagonist to his wife Régine who takes on the stage as the lead vocalist. The stage goes on full blast as she starts singing with eloquent passion and maximum effort. For me, personally, the most emotional moment of the night.
“Businessmen drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would.” -Ready to Start
The dancefloor reaches its highest peak, in my opinion, when the volatile guitar riff starting “Ready to Start” begins. The people in the crowd realize this is the song to lose yourself into, the only one that allows you to push each other around frenetically. This is the only song where a “mosh pit” is formed. But in this case its exclusively between indie fans and not hard metal. I interpret the lyrics shown above as Win talking about the alteration they experienced after being acclaimed by the “businessmen” (the commercial critics) and when their sales went up the roof.
When I saw Arcade Fire live the two times I got lucky I felt the energy that their members deliver when performing and I also found a lot of time for introspection when listening closely to their lyrics. I now trust deeply Win Butler and I believe in a lot of the things he says. I understand the darkness in their writing complementing the brilliance in the sounds of the instruments they play. The concert left me more than satisfied, it left me feeling different things. Thinking about letting go of society once in a while when you get the chance. So I will be glad the next time I see them headline a festival or be close to my city.