When Arcade Fire entered the Schottenstein Center, themes from its most recent album, “Reflektor,” were on full display. The band came out with ceiling suspended above the stage, curtains, and even people covered in mirrors that bounced light around the arena.
It was some sort of spectacle, and the band’s expectations treated it as such.
The band had requested attendees to come dressed formally or in costume Tuesday night, and a good number played along. No matter how pretentious an expectation, it was a good idea, because a sea of men in black tie and women in dresses added an atmosphere that helped everyone get out of their own heads. In a way, the show had the feeling of one of those strange idealized prom scenes in an ‘80s teen flick, where the school hires a band that’s way better than any high school would get and everyone has way more fun than they do in real life. That atmosphere was only heightened when confetti and streamers dumped onto the audience in the final act.
For a venue as large as the Schott, it was clear the band wanted to make it feel as small as possible. When it came to audience engagement, singer Win Butler took control of the reins.
Early in the show, he doused himself with a bottle of water and threw some on the audience as well. After a lull period late in the show, he had the same novel idea again. After several in front row pulled out their phones to take pictures and videos, he came down and playfully confiscated a few to mess with them. No matter the interaction, the audience was excited and cheered when any came their way.
Butler donned a brash persona onstage, even brooding. And there was a lot of irony in it.
When Arcade Fire won its first and only Grammy in 2011 for Best Album of the Year, it was still somewhat of an underdog.
But no longer. The band is on the top of the totem pole.
For whatever “indie” epithets and edgy genre labels bloggers would like to encloak the band with, this concert was nothing but conventional, at times to the point of being bland.
Like U2 or Coldplay, it was exactly the kind of show you’d expect could fill an arena. Arcade Fire stuck mainly to playing upbeat songs from their catalogue. Songs like “Month of May” were the preferred breed, and others were adapted to make them more “rock ‘n’ roll.”
It’s also the kind of show that makes a great spectacle, but offers little musically to chew on for two hours.
What exactly were we supposed to do with it? The audience couldn’t quite figure it out either. The rhythms lacked a feel that was suitable for dancing. And you wouldn’t dare come to listen to words. Even if there was something worthwhile in them, they are entirely lost out in the mix.
As for the musicianship, there wasn’t much to absorb there either. Like a lot of shows these days, their sound guys made the bass, drums and synthesizers so prominent they drowned out every other track. Any interesting melodies coming from the other instruments were entirely muffled under the incessant drone that reverberated from the Schott’s bass speakers.
Ultimately, the only appropriate way to digest this was with a bunch of soulless drunken head bobbing, and the audience kindly obliged.
It was the McDonald’s of rock concerts. When you were young it was exciting, but now it’s just that same recycled flavor that’s good enough to fill empty space. The loud blistering riffs and beats could appropriately drive teenagers wild, but Tuesday’s show was filled with a bunch of adults with a seemingly median age of 30.
However, these were people most likely just looking for a night out to “let loose.” No matter how they felt afterwards, surely they sang Arcade Fire’s praises to their coworkers the next day. They paid good money to sing along to the hits.