» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

October 14, 2010
Photos by Tiffany Parker.

I could write a detailed review of the October 2nd and 3rd Arcade Fire shows at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. I could list the songs, ramble on about the crowd's loving energy, talk about the so-so sound system, give props to the weather, crow over the amphitheater's period architecture. Hell, I could even hem and haw about the large video screen, or the inspired set lists. Ho hum. Rather, I will humbly use this small platform to make a grandiose statement of purpose: Arcade Fire are the most essential rock band on the planet right now. I sensed this going in, but the two back-to-back sold-out shows neatly provided the R&D for this bold claim.

First thing's first. Every generation gets the artists they deserve. The early sixties desired Dylan, he answered the call. Later that decade, The Beatles provided the burgeoning genre of rock and roll with depth and breadth. Then the Glimmer Twins drenched it with grittiness. The synth-addled seventies got a hailstorm of metal and punk, while the workingmen got Bruce. The eighties excesses were eventually mitigated by the art leanings of Talking Heads, who then predated the enchanted slantedness of Pavement. By the time Nirvana was unleashed on a MTV-brainwashed gen, we may not have known what we needed, but we got it anyway.

So what does Arcade Fire bring to this 21st century table? The last decade has been a game-changer in almost every way: the near demise of the record store as hub, the i-delivery of music, the battle between song versus album, the internet-jet-fueled rise of unknowns, the viral hype - followed by viral backlash, then viral whiplash. It's no wonder pundits use the term "fragmented" when they speak on record about the record industry. The table had been set for years, and now turned over. Yet we're still hungry for something substantive, and Arcade Fire are the quintessential incarnation.

This is not to say there has been a dearth of artists that bring it on home. Quite the contrary, the first decade of the new millennium has been as fruitful as any other. But when Win Butler and Co. take the stage, it becomes crystal clear that they're doing more than keeping the car running; they're in the driver's seat, pedals to the metal. Forget that the band is coming off its third album and third unprecedented success in a row, one that actually topped the charts (whatever those are anymore) in its bowing week. I saw this band before Funeral dropped like a bomb and can testify that nothing has changed. They bring the same manic talent and childlike wonder to the 8500-seat Greek, as they did to the 200-person Larimer Lounge six years ago.

In an era when bands either stall creatively or are burned by their opportunism, this family of musicians has done neither. In the post-Funeral torrent, Win and Regine were asked if they would jump from indie icon Merge Records to one of the larger labels courting them with big dreams and bigger paychecks. Their reaction was one of head-scratching befuddlement: why would they leave the small label that is treating them so well? It was almost as if they didn't understand the question. And herein lies the source code for the magic this band emanates: it's never been about money, fame or bullshit. It's always been about the art of the music.

As great as their records are, nowhere does their essence shine than the stage on which they were seemingly born to run. The sheer musicianship is astounding; it becomes hard to follow who's on first, as they trade instruments every damn song. And this isn't just for show - each one of them is so adept at whatever they're playing, the musical chairs (sorry) is so inspiring to behold. The force that is contained within the songs is unfurled with booming energy, whether it's the familiar sing-along anthems, or the bare-bone new cuts from The Suburbs. Win may be the head of this wily beast, but only in theory. Not with drummer Jeremy Gara playing lead guitar center stage, Richard Reed Parry jumping in his jumpsuit like a lunatic, Regine pounding the kits with her fingerless gloves, bassist Tim Kingsbury now on guitar, brother Will is climbing 25 feet up the PA scaffolding with a fucking kick drum dangling from his neck, violinist Sarah Neufeld somehow now on organ....

That brings us full circle to what Arcade Fire provide in this age of virtual reality: they are as virtually real as it gets. They topple the prevailing ideology, not with their pounding fists, but with their nimble fingers. In rocking out with such passion and accessibility, they provide a community of connectedness that we all need, era be damned. Let us pound our fists in the air, they're simply doing what they do. If they are having a blast along their wild ride, it's our boon. Nothing can stop them from their spirited quest to write and play the best damn music they know how. If they fell short, they'd still be a spectacle. But with a triptych of minor masterpieces under their belts, and the better part of a decade blowing people's minds in live forums, the art punks from up north seem intent as an arctic front slowly moving south. As Win stated to the amped up Bay Area crowd, before launching into "Rebellion (Lies)": "Let's go, you laid back motherfuckers!" True that.

SEE ALSO: www.arcadefire.com
SEE ALSO: www.mergerecords.com

Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other articles by Ari Shapiro.



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