On Thursday night I was part of “the most polite giant mob” Win Butler had ever seen. Hometown heroes, Arcade Fire, drew a crowd of 75,000 people for their free show which, both concluded their international tour and kick-started the 10th annual indie-music festival, POP Montreal.
This has been a fantastic year for the band, in August 2010 they came out with their third studio album, The Suburbs. The Suburbs received wide acclaim by both music critics and fans. The NME’s Emily Mckay gave it a solid 9/10. She wrote that with this album, Arcade Fire has “… judged their moment perfectly…. an album that combines mass accessibility with much greater ambition. Pretty much perfect, in other words – and despite their best efforts, listening to it feels just like coming home.” The Suburbs won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011, the first indie act to do so. As well they took home the 2011 Polaris Music Prize which yearly honours a Canadian album, based not on sales, but artistic merit.
Thursday night’s show was spectacular. Butler and the gang didn’t cut any corners for the free gig and put on a highly engaging and energetic set. My favourite member is Regine Chassagne. A friend once gave me the brilliant obeservation that if Helena Bonham Carter or Bellatrix Lestrange were in an indie rock band, this is what she would look like. Chassagne’s voice provides a high-tone, slightly shaky, counterpoint to the rest of the band’s sound, her voice is often used like she were a bird singing above a bulldozer- a bulldozer with fantastic musical sensibilities. Her orange and red costume only added to the simile; she danced and twirled her way around the stage flitting from instrument to instrument leaving me with the unshakable impression of a phoenix.
Neighbourhood #1 (tunnels) from Funeral
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) from The Suburbs