When Arcade Fire won the Album of the Year Grammy for The Suburbs in 2011, Twitter exploded with the question “Who the fuck are Arcade Fire??” The question led the band to not only put the question on an official tee shirt, but also led them to play with their identity on their follow-up album Reflektor. Are they Arcade Fire? Are they The Reflektors? The band ponders life, death and fame on the album, and the tour continues the questions in a playful, party-like atmosphere.
Concert-goers were encouraged to come to the shows dressed in their finest, whether that be formal wear or a Halloween costume. Despite the toasty temperatures at The Gorge Friday night, many fans happily complied. Prom dresses, sparkly masks, a full furry dog costume, even a Where’s Waldo – a wide variety of the shiny and the silly were on display.
Even opening band The Antlers joined in, taking the stage in white masks. Their lush, atmospheric rock may be better-suited to a more intimate venue, but as their set continued, the audience eventually got on board.
Dan Deacon and his odd box of wires and effects got the crowd dancing, turning the pit into both a dance competition and a follow-the-leader dance game. While he looks like the least likely stadium boogie hero ever, his bizarre yet infectious creations pumped up the crowd and made for an appropriate transition into the main event.
Kicking off with Reflektor’s excellent, disco-infused title track, Arcade Fire took the vibe and increased it exponentially. All the way up the high hillside, the crowd’s energy grew as the nearly-full moon rose overhead.
The band is known for utilizing a variety of instruments, and on this tour they are supplemented by two additional Haitian percussionists, Diol Edmond and Twill Duprate; Regine Chassagne also played a steel drum on several songs.
Chassagne was all over the stage in her various roles, hopping from the microphone, to an accordion, to a secondary drum kit, even moving to a secondary stage for “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” where she was shadowed by a dancing vision of death. Her glee as she took the spotlight for lead vocals on “Haiti” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” was visible all the way to the back of the hill.
For the encore, a gaggle of bobble-headed fake band members (aka The Reflektors) mimed through part of Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” (the band “plays” a song by a regional favorite at each show) before being interrupted by the real band, and all crowded onto the stage to charge through “Normal Person” and the confetti-strewn “Here Comes the Night Time.”
There’s great joy and catharsis in Arcade Fire’s music, whether it’s in the already-classic “Rebellion (Lies)” or “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” or newer songs like “Ready to Start” and “Afterlife.” Singing the all-or-nothing chorus of “Wake Up” with thousands of other fans can restore one’s faith in humanity (even if just for a few minutes), and it didn’t take much encouragement to continue the song after the band left the stage.
Who the fuck are Arcade Fire? If nothing else, they are one of the best live acts out there today.