Climbing up and down from a platform at the center of what was essentially live music-in-the-round, Win Butler must have been fully engulfed with sound waves—so much so, it would seem, that for the very first time, he messed up the lyrics to one of his band’s most famous songs.
“That’s the first time we ever fucked up ‘No Cars Go’,” the towering Arcade Fire frontman said on Wednesday night, early on in the band’s nearly two-hour set celebrating the release of their fifth record, Everything Now. His lyrics may have stumbled for a split second, but no one cared—in fact, everyone was happy to get to hear the song start over from the beginning. It was like hitting the back arrow on your music player, starting a song over because, you know, it’s just worth hearing again before it ends.
In Park Slope’s Grand Prospect Hall, the band staggered new material with fan favorites, the free show’s entirely packed house singing along to both new and old. It was a venue that doesn’t typically house live music (outside of the occasional wedding band) hosting a band for their smallest show in the foreseeable future—possibly even until their next record release show.
The night was unpredictable from the start. Entering the venue felt like walking into a gala, a prom, or some kind of a year-end awards dinner. From there, we were led into a ballroom with a couple cash bars. Was this where the show would be? I wondered this for a hot minute, but it was indeed a stupid thought, as high doors that reached the ceilings opened up, making way to the actual venue where the band would play.
Once inside, and with some waiting, it wasn’t long until the show began. Draped with fake ads tying in with the album’s tracks and themes—Butler brought attention to a ‘sponsor,’ a company called “Chemistry,” and signage was also present for a cereal called “Creature Comfort,” with logos around the walls for “Infinite Content,” “Signs of Life” and more. “Chemistry” and “Creature Comfort” even had their own Aaron Judge-esque fan sections.
After a boxing-style intro, declaring the band as ‘five time undefeated champions,’ Butler, Régine Chassagne, and the rest of the gang kicked things into high gear right away with “Everything Now,” the title track from their new album. A reprise of this song also closed the show nearly two hours later, just as it both opens and closes the album that everyone in attendance was there celebrating.
In the early days of its release, Everything Now has seen mixed reviews (to put it nicely) in droves. It’s not difficult to understand why those mixed reviews have occurred—with Everything Now, the band continues even further down the path that was begun by their previous album, Reflektor. The music is changing, and as great as I may think the Butler-Chassagne dueling vocals and discontenting lyrics of “Creature Comfort” or the vocal euphoria of the Chassagne showcase “Electric Blue” are, there’s no doubt that there is an inherent difference in the new songs.
“Infinite Content,” which is a track that wasn’t played at the release show, is nothing we would’ve ever heard on Funeral, Neon Bible, or The Suburbs. In fact, the satirical, smarmy tone that the song takes (and that has accompanied the band during much of the promotion for this new album) evokes the aesthetic of their pal Father John Misty. It’s certainly a bit jarring to hearing some of these newer songs like “Creature Comfort” even alongside Reflektor’s closest thing to an old-school Arcade Fire sounding song, “Afterlife.”
But the question, really, has to be asked—we love Funeral. We love Neon Bible. We love The Suburbs. Those albums already exist in the world, and will always exist forever. You can listen to “Sprawl II” every day for the rest of your life until the day you die, and it will sound the same, and have the same impact every single time. That is not going anywhere. So why, then, are Arcade Fire criticized for evolving, for trying something new? Do we want them to make the same three albums over and over again? Reflektor was a polarizing record, and Everything Now is already veering down the same path. But even if it doesn’t quite accomplish what the band hopes for it (and with a record in literally it’s first day of release, the jury is still very much out), isn’t the experimentation worth it?
I tend to veer towards a resounding yes, and a live set like the one to which the band treated its fans (the set as livestreamed on Apple Music) on Wednesday proved exactly why. The Arcade Fire of 2004 isn’t going anywhere.The Régine Chassagne of 2010 is still here. The Win Butler of 2007 can still belt out “No Cars Go” with the best of him—even if, once in awhile, the screaming crowd might have to suffer through a do-over.
Crappy iPhone photos by Evan Romano