Friday, May 25, 2007

Arcade Fire

Yesterday I saw Arcade Fire. My friend Vicky and I met at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby for this outdoor concert. It feels like home there for me. It's where I work, part of the City of Burnaby's central complex of City Hall, museum, gallery and Arts Centre. As a kid, I attended art programs at the Shadbolt Centre (back before it was named Shadbolt), and later performed in community theatre there and at the summer vaudeville show at the museum nearby. Nowadays it's where I go for staff seminars and meetings, to visit the art gallery and to walk around the lake. The camp that I operate in the summer uses the lake for canoe days. Sometimes, when I'm lucky, I get to see a concert there on the beautiful festival lawn.

Vicky and I got there early so we had time to set a blanket in a great location on the sloping lawn. The stage is set up in front of the lake. We talked, strolled around the grass in our bare feet, and had a bit of a picnic supper in the glorious sunshine. As we waited, the venue filled up. My friend who runs the festivals office told me that 8 thousand tickets had been sold by Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday evening, there were 10 thousand at the show, according to the paper. It didn't feel crowded. The sight lines and sound were great and the mood was excited but happy and friendly. Down in front of the stage you could crunch up and dance as a mass of humanity. We stuck with our blanket, about halfway up the slope.

The opening act, St. Vincent, was lovely - a bit like Ani Di Franco vocally, but more melodic, and with a great band, including a violinist and french horn player, that played lush arrangements that helped make us ready for the feature act. I bought the 3 song St. Vincent CD. I hope we'll hear more from her and see her again.

After a break to re-set the stage, Arcade Fire began. It was just getting dark. The moon appeared. And there was this big, rich complex sound, almost operatic. Nine musicians played an orchestra of instruments, including a big pipe organ and a silvery standup base. The band members' costumes, makeup and hair made them look like they'd just walked through a time warp from an earlier era, but from the sound of the music I thought maybe they'd been just dropped back to earth after being held captive on a spaceship for a few years, with nothing to do but write beautiful, expressive, complicated, introspective pop music. The stage was set up with neon accents, and circular screens like portholes, onto which images were projected in black and white, including real-time video of the band playing. They played a good mix of music from both their Funeral and Neon Bible CDs. Their performances were tight and solid, with not too much variation from how their songs sound on the CDs. I kind of wished they might have taken off with a totally new way of playing at least one song, but that's my only complaint about the whole evening. In fact, how they played was at least half the fun. They danced, and wailed and rumbled, and threw instruments in the air, and climbed on the scaffolding around the stage and drummed on it, and switched instruments and flung themselves from one song to the next and to the abrupt changes of pace and tone that characterize so many of their songs. There were several chances to sing along, and the audience did so with enthusiasm. By the end we were sweaty, happy and would be bouncing off the ceiling only there was no ceiling. I thought to myself that listening to their music was kind of like when you are a little kid and you're on the merry-go-round at the playground, the one that you run to make it go then you jump on, or an older kid spins while you hang on for dear life. You lean out off the side and open your eyes and look at the sky spinning, and every sound and sight of your day seems to spin crazily and beautifully in your head. Well, that's what Arcade Fire sounded like.

The concert ended at 10 (noise bylaw). We said hey to a few friends who were there, including Mike McGee, one of my favourite performance poets, there to see one of his favourite bands. Then we headed home.

It was a great night and a wonderful concert.

question: none that I can think of

mompoet - still spinning

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