TUL's Take: Arcade Fire @ Constitution Hall
We only caught the last third of The National's set when we finally made it to our seats, but the few songs the band performed were excellent. While I'm not particularly a big fan of The National, they put on a superb opening set which was punctuated with a rousing rendition of "Mr. November". It's good to see these guys not only getting a lot of exposure by opening for one of the hottest bands at the moment, but also delivering while onstage. If you're keeping tabs on the band, they'll be returning to DC at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, June 20.
At around 9:15pm, the many members of The Arcade Fire took the stage for the first time in DC since their show at the 9:30 Club which, amazingly, was over two years ago. Since then, the band has upped their production values with some extensive lighting, video, and a two-piece horn section. They also brought along an actual church organ whose pipes were hanging in front of a red curtain backdrop with the Neon Bible logo projected in the center. By the way, our obstructed view seats weren't exactly obstruction per se. In fact, we were very close to the stage and only seven rows up in the balcony. The only object that was blocking our view was one of the band's six video projection pieces that was meant to resemble a circa 1940s television set.
The anxious crowd roared with approval when Win Butler and Co. kicked things off with "Black Mirror" before segueing into a remarkable rendition of "No Cars Go." I remember when the group performed this song at the 9:30 Club, but Friday night's version turned out to be vastly superior. The additional musicians (and great sound, which is a rarity at DAR shows) added a new layer to the song which really made "No Cars Go" sound that much better in person. Midway through the set I realized that, despite Neon Bible's acclaimed reviews, Funeral is in fact a much better album, especially when performed live. I mean don't get me wrong, the Neon Bible songs sounded great but just don't hold a candle to the material performed from Funeral.
And then, it happened. Ladies and gentlemen, The Arcade Fire defied DAR. When Win apologized to the security in advance and invited the crowd to come down to the floor, patrons rushed the aisles and practically converted the seated venue into a general admission club. The one-two punch of Neighborhood #3 (Power's Out) and Rebellion (Lies) was downright incredible and created an energy inside Constitution Hall that its walls have probably never experienced before. The Upstate Life has never seen a band take command of a room like that out of all the concerts I've seen at DAR and that even includes The Pixies reunion show for crying out loud. But then again, this was The Arcade Fire. This was the very same band that I saw two years ago which I deemed to be the best concert, ever. This one came incredibly close readers, but it's hard to compare when you're stuck up in the balcony of a 3000 seat place compared to the intimacy of the 9:30 Club.
The fans inside Constitution Hall were treated to one hell of an encore which was comprised of "Intervention" and a jaw-dropping performance of "Wake Up". According to a poster on the 9:30 forum, "Antichrist Television Blues" was supposed to be the other song performed alongside with "Intervention", but the DC crowd evidently lucked out when the band played "Wake Up" instead. If this was a spur of the moment decision by the group, I highly applaud them for making the right choice. It was arguably the best part of the show. I took some super amateur quality video with my digital camera just to capture the moment. Overall, what can I say about Arcade Fire that hasn't been said already? These guys know exactly what they're doing and put on not only the best show I've seen so far this year, but also the best show ever performed at DAR.
By the way, if you want to relive Friday night's experience, a recording has surfaced and can be found here (via Us Kids Know). If you don't have an account, just wait until around 12:30am and you should be able to register as accounts are purged daily.
Setlist via 9:30 Forum:
No Cars Go
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
Black Wave/Bad Vibrations
The Well and the Lighthouse
Ocean of Noise
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Keep the Car Running