PHOTOS: Arcade Fire kick off spring tour in Colorado - Reverb

Live review: Arcade Fire @ the 1stBank Center

“We haven’t played in forever,” Win Butler told the Colorado crowd on Saturday, the first night of Arcade Fire’s spring tour. The audience was none the wiser. The eight-piece band missed hardly a cue, chord change or head-bob at the 1stBank Center on Saturday — even if the show, itself, lacked the raw energy of past performances.

For Arcade Fire to (mostly) fill the 6,500 capacity arena is an accomplishment, itself. The band, which first played the cavernous Larimer Lounge in the warehouse district while touring behind its masterful debut album, “Funeral,” several years ago, has reached a level of success reserved for so few “indie” acts. Saturday’s show, no doubt made possible by Butler and Co.’s “Album of the Year” trophy at this year’s Grammy Awards, was a strong outing, though it could have been stronger.

New songs from their best-selling 2010 release “The Suburbs” dominated the set list, and fans were forced to wait patiently for glimpses of 2007’s “Neon Bible” and 2004’s “Funeral.” And while inspired takes on “Modern Man,” “Empty Room” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” sounded crisp and refreshing, the bulk of the new material lacked the sense of triumph that justifies Arcade Fire as an arena rock act.

Still, there were more hits than misses on this inaugural night. The stage design — a minimalist take on a drive-in movie lot (or carnival grounds, possibly) — aided to rather than interfered with the complexities of the music. Three large screens displayed roving visuals of winding roads, the night sky and ancient black and white film strips in near-flawless synchronization to the moody music. The multimedia presentation reached its apex when Butler pounded out the honky tonk piano chords of the title-track “The Suburbs” beneath Spike Jonze’s music video of mischeivous teenage boys cruising cul-de-sacs on bicycles in sunny Austin, Tex.

For a band so tethered to the Montreal scene of the last decade, so much of Arcade Fire is rooted in modern Americana. However, rather than nostalgia for western saloons or lonesome highways, the Houston-born Win and bandmate/brother William seem more concerned with the “plastic” vision of the American dream as made famous by films like “The Graduate.” Standing under strings of kitschy used-car-lot-flags, the sprawling group with weird clothes, weirder haircuts and megaphones beckoned the call, “Wake up!”

That song, no doubt receiving the best reception of the night, was an allegory for how a band of outcasts with string instruments and distorted guitars could beat the Nashville machine with proper storytelling of this American moment — as they did at the Grammys in February. And even with its massive audience sing-a-long, “Wake Up” ran a distant second to the transcendent “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” — the first of a three-song sprint that included “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and “We Used To Wait.”

Los Angeles indie-rock band Local Natives opened the show with an energetic, satisfying set comprised of choice cuts from their debut album “Gorilla Manor.”

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John Hendrickson is the Managing Editor of Reverb and a multimedia journalist for The Denver Post.

Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.

  • Quinn

    I agree with the review. The show lacked some of the energy of the show I saw at Red Rocks when they were here last time. I don’t really think their new material is suited for arenas. I think that they could have chosen a couple of different songs from the new album, but I’m nitpicking here. Arcade Fire simply put on a really good show everytime and consistently will- due to a very strong catalogue.

  • svanho

    This review is entirely off. Each band member played with unwavering energy, and even came back for a few more songs at the encore – making their entire set 1 1/2 – 2 hours long. Also, they played enough songs off of past albums for long-standing fans to be happy with it, and still stayed true to the tour they’re on now – which is FOR their most recent album. I don’t know where Hendrickson was standing, but from the front and center of the crowd, the entire venue was going nuts the whole time. Even Local Natives got an awesome response, and were clearly thrilled by it. Another high light that you don’t often see at such large-venue shows, is how respectful the crowd was. Everyone was clearly there to see the band and have a good time; even in the very front there was ample room to dance, as well as a single crowd surfer who didn’t get very far as everyone was too busy paying attention to the actual music, and not one fight broke out. Also in attendance was celebrity Danny Pudi from Community, who rocked out hard.nnClearly the reviewer is from an older generation, and doesn’t entirely grasp/appreciate the movement of originality, genuineness, and anti-consumerism that Arcade Fire represents. The crowd however, clearly did.

  • The nosebleeder

    Great pics….I could barely see anything from where I was sitting!!

  • John Hendrickson

    Hey Svanho. I did see some positive crowd response, but I felt the overall pace of the show and song selection could have used some improvement. No worries, it was the first night of the tour and I’m excited to see them again at Coachella this weekend. Yeah, Local Natives were excellent. Also, I’m 23 years old, don’t call me a geezer!

  • Ahs123

    I was there-in the stands…and it was a truly wonderful evening. I saw not one person sitting, or standing still-you couldn’t. I am thrilled that they chose Broomfield-and honestly would go anywhere in the state that they would play. I hope they come back soon-2007 was a long time ago. I think the reviewer needs a new job.

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