Is it possible to like a band less after seeing them live? I think that happened to me last night with Arcade Fire.
AF is one of those rare bands that made the jump from indie darling to Major Label Success. The first time they played San Francisco it was maybe 5 years ago at Bottom of the Hill, a smallish club with an even smaller stage and cheap beer. Last night they played at the Greek Theater, which holds like 8,000 people, I think. Good for them; I'm the last person to yell "sellout" just because someone makes it big or sells a song to Honda.
But this success means a very odd crowd, at least for me. I don't know how to put this without sounding like a jackass, but I usually sound like a jackass anyway, so I'll just say it: the crowd was square. I mean, most shows I go to, I am maybe one of the least hip people there. But this crowd last night was straight out of Clean Cut College Kid Monthly. Lots of bros. Backward baseball caps. Volcom. You know what I mean. Compared to this crowd, I was a dangerous, edgy artiste. It freaked me out a little.
Also, I guess this ship has long since sailed, but I will never, for the life of me, understand why people come to shows and then TALK THROUGH THE WHOLE THING. This chick behind me had a pure SCREECH of a voice and blabbered on and on and on about her job to the guy next to her who probably gave less of a shit than I did. Luckily she was mostly drowned out when AF was playing but I could barely hear Calexico, the opener, over her shrieking. Fuck you.
OK, now about this AF thing. I've liked them since "Funeral," the first album back in, what, 2005 or so. But for some reason I've never felt any emotional connection to any of their songs, which is weird, because they write what are pretty much overtly emotional songs, crescendo after crescendo and Win Butler's plaintive yowling and all kinds of lyrics designed to make you hearken back to the gauzy remembrance of your youth. But, for me, anyway, there's not much beneath the surface. I like all the songs a lot, but I've never felt my heart breaking when I listen to them, like it might with "She Sends Kisses" by the Wrens or "Sunday Noises" by Califone or "Come Pick Me Up" by Ryan Adams. You get the idea.
So last night really didn't change that. I mean, they played great and everybody loved them and everything but I was just sitting there waiting for something to happen and it never did. It's not their fault, by any stretch; they were just great (except when the chick was dancing around with ribbons like she was in an interpretative dance MFA program) and played everything just right and everything. I just wasn't feeling it. It just like never spoke to me, man, you dig?
When we got home, we turned on Saturday Night Live, and I have to say: Kanye doing "Runaway" on SNL? That was fucking GREAT.
Arcade Fire's specialty seems to be lighting things up.
Jeff Baker, The Oregonian, Friday, October 1: "Arcade Fire lights up the Memorial Coliseum."
Jim Harrington, Oakland Tribune, Sunday, October 3: "Arcade Fire lights up the night at Greek."
Backstage caterer: "Arcade Fire lights up the spread of chamomille tea and brioche."