Arcade Fire keeps the faith
Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut LP Funeral captured the indie rock listening public’s imagination, its uplifting earnestness giving fans and critics alike something to believe in as music was becoming more digitized and commodified for streaming consumption. Something significant happened along the way as Arcade Fire released 2007’s Neon Bible, followed by No. 1 albums The Suburbs (2013) and Reflektor (2015): They matured, as did their fans and critics. Times changed, trends changed, and the musical aspirations of bandleader Win Butler, his wife and co-lead vocalist Régine Chassagne, and their longtime bandmates evolved as their latest album Everything Now demonstrates.
Whether or not their fans are prepared to evolve with them will be determined by the response to Arcade Fire’s fall tour, which finds the band performing in a centrally positioned, squared-off ring designed to allow audiences to circumnavigate the stage. Butler and company are confident enough in the new music to kick off current sets with the title cut from Everything Now, a mid-tempo disco number that punctuates ABBA atmospherics with an ’80s art-rock chorus as Butler softens his quavering, emotive tenor for a melody vaguely reminiscent of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
The song sets the tone for both album and concert, as Arcade Fire’s current shows are effectively dance parties. Newer songs blend seamlessly with older material in concert more so than in critical assessments of Everything Now, which is the logical musical extension after producer James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem made his presence felt on Reflektor. Newer songs sound less like Arcade Fire’s sweeping epics of old and more like tracks that could fit in Murphy’s DFA Records dance-punk catalog. Along with the new directions—the Tom Tom Club-sounding “Electric Blue” is a particular highlight—comes a new attitude, which may be what has irked the critics.
Everything Now takes satirical aim at the modern culture of consumption, with Butler often coming across less earnest than jaded on songs such as “Creature Comfort” and “Infinite Content.” Detractors have pointed out it’s territory that has been mined before by artists from Radiohead to Peter Gabriel to The Who, but Arcade Fire is speaking to a newly cynicized generation and dealing with an unprecedented level of media input and attention options to process. To change things up, they launched a multipronged satirical media campaign that wound up backfiring.
Maybe critics whose identities depend on getting attention for their reactions to infinite content took it too personally, but stunts like a fake corporation promoting the album and a fake pre-review of Everything Now fell flat with the arbiters of indie rock coolness. Arcade Fire’s sense of humor went over as well as Bryan Adams’ glam period, but that hasn’t stopped them from receiving accolades for their recent shows. The newer material, increasingly influenced by the eclecticism of band’s adopted home base of New Orleans, is delivered with the ensemble exuberance Arcade Fire built their live reputation on. It’s an organic diversion from the plugged-in world fueled by a music evolution Arcade Fire has faith in.
Mandalay Bay, 8 p.m. Oct. 22, starting at $26 plus tax and fee. 800.745.3000 Ticketmaster