Sunday, October 3, 2010

Arcade Fire left me feeling a little underwhelmed

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."


Dan said...

You might like this, although its more critical of AF live than you are. I really like the whole article, and the beginning is about AF live:

Stephen said...

I found myself thinking that I could live happily in a world without Arcade Fire in a way I couldn't without, say, The Weakerthans or Centro-matic. AF is terrific, but not essential.

Rachel said...

TK, I had a similar experience when I saw them at the Great American back when they were still touring Funeral. I like their music a lot, but the show felt lackluster, and plenty of people were talking through the whole show (including some dudes wearing ankle length fur coats... they were strange.)

David said...

A Neon Bible Study

Arcade Fire:
Sermon by John Van Sloten (New Hope Church, Calgary, Alberta)

Jesus at The Arcade Fire concert
by JVS on Sep.27, 2010

Allan said...

I saw them at Shoreline when they were touring behind the second album. The show was AMAZING -- because LCD Soundsystem was the opener. I also liked some of the lighting effects, like having giant black-and-white-and-red video of the drummer drumming projected against the back of the stage, like epic Soviet propaganda posters come to life. But mainly LCD Soundsystem.

TK said...

Allan -

I really didn't get how great LCD Soundsystem is live until, duh, I saw them live. Wow, awesome.

Dan -

Good read, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I love these guys (I sang No Cars Go to my daughter as a lullaby, and she now insists on hearing it every time we're in the car) but... I was a little meh on Saturday's show. It was solid, and glad I went, but something was missing. I got there late and had crappy seats, but still...

I saw them at Vegoose in 2005 which was freakin' awesome, as was the Warfield show that fall (even though we had crappy seats). And oh am I am still bitter that I missed that Bottom of the Hill show.

{grumpyoldman}But at shows, people need to seriously Shut. The Fuck. Up. I am not paying to hear *you*. I wish security would kick people out who insist on blathering on.{/grumpyoldman}

p.s. Stephen, good call on the Weakerthans.

amy.leblanc said...

one of my favorite musicians in the world tours with Arcade Fire (sax player), and i still don't really like them. did you read this?

"See, I'm utterly convinced music is one of the great barometers of the soul, the perfect analogy for one's fluidity of spirit. That is to say, the minute you lock it all down, settle too hard on your preferences and refuse to allow new musical possibilities, new bands and sounds and head bobbings into your personal transom, well, might as well hang it up and go watch Bill O'Reilly and listen to Helen Reddy on the transistor in Florida. You're done.

This is why I am slightly, momentarily troubled. For no matter how hard I try, no matter the volume or the environment, the mood or the alcohol consumption, my musical sensibilities simply refuse to enjoy the current gods of cool indie music, the greatest act known to all of modern hipsterdom next to Radiohead, the band known as The Arcade Fire."