As my two friends and I walked from Union Station to the Chicago Theater on Saturday, I observed to them that the diversity of people in Chicago had lessened to almost nothing as we got closer to the Arcade Fire show; the wide variety of the larger population had narrowed to only include the easily-excited “scene” kids gathered outside.
Yes, I’d lucked into a seat to see, for the first time, one of today’s greatest recording acts. I’d heard only good things about their stage presence and showmanship, and my anticipation rose during the forty-five minute train ride and the twenty-minute walk to the theater.
Finally, we walked through the doors. I said goodbye to my companions, who had separate seats on the floor, while mine was in the balcony. I expected the show to be hampered by the distance from my comrades, but was pleasantly surprised when I got to my seat: what they’d thought was the upper deck was actually a luxury box! I settled in and, after trying in vain to get my neighbors to switch seats with my friends, waited for the show to start.
Finally, the house lights dimmed and the audience stood up and surged forward. Through the blackness, four miniature screens on the stage played footage of an excited preacher. After a somewhat garbled and incoherently crazy speech, the preacher’s final words echoed throughout the venue: Neon Bible. The eight or so members of the band walked out, picked up and plugged in their instruments, and launched into “Black Mirror.” I’d include a setlist, but I lost my notepad and pen at some point during the night. Suffice it to say, frontman Win Butler controlled the audience more than veteran politicians at a party convention: when he clapped, we clapped; when he opened his mouth to address us, we cheered. It is a pity that he never asked us to be quiet, I wonder if it would have happened.
The band was in top form. Most of the songs played, and indeed the first half of the set list, were from Neon Bible. The only Funeral songs played were “Tunnels,” “Power Out,” “Rebellion,” and “The Backseat.” Whenever the audience recognized the older songs, a wave of cheers engulfed the stage. The particularly impassioned performances of the evening were on “Tunnels,” “No Cars Go,” “Intervention,” and of course “Rebellion.”
Arcade Fire may have visited Chicago unnoticed by most of the city, but for the few hundred people lucky enough to be at the Chicago Theater that night, it was impossible to notice anything else.