Almost two decades ago Arcade Fire played The Bowery Ballroom as up and comers with legends like David Bowie, Lou Reed, and David Byrne stopping by to check them out. The past four nights they played the venue again as one of the world’s biggest bands cramming a full stage and light show into the tiny room with a crowd that was as enthusiastic as anyone they’ve ever played in front of. The first two nights people waited in line at the venue, while the last two had people going all over the city to score tickets. The line of hopefuls waiting to get in wrapped around the block every night. All four though, more importantly, were benefits for Ukraine with all proceeds from the shows going to to help the people of the current war torn country. Win Butler spoke about it briefly during the night and even had Mike Meyers come out and give a speech before the encore. It’s not surprising though that Arcade Fire would do this considering all the work they’ve done for Haiti over the years.
The night started with some jazz by pianist Issac ben Ayala who was eventually joined by Ben Jaffe (Preservation Hall Jazz Band) and Stuart Bogie as the crowd came into the venue. The three played for about an hour with Win even stopping by to hang out and watch them. Once it was time for the main attraction though and the house lights went down the crowd roared and Arcade Fire took the stage. As the band launched into “The Lightning I, II,” Win told the crowd to leave it all in the venue tonight since it was the end of the run. The new song is a hell of a way to start a show. Once that transition hits as part I goes into part II the room was electric and the energy never ceased for the remained of the show.
They went right into “Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)” and as it looked like the song was going to end, Paul Beaubrun jumped off the stage and into the crowd. Soon after Win joined him and had the audience get down to the ground and then all jump up together creating quite the mosh pit. “Age of Anxiety I” brought the first real wow moment of the night to the stage with Régine Chassagne donning lazer gloves and having the green beams fill the room. Once this gets to an arena, I can only imagine how wild this segment is going to be. “Ready to Start,” which the crowd was more than prepared for, kicked off a run of older material with “The Suburbs,” “Afterlife,” and “Reflektor.” The floor really got bouncing again during “Reflektor” and must have made Win jealous as the next song “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)” saw him dive back into the crowd for another wild jump around with everyone on the floor.
The new songs from the upcoming album WE, fit right in live with the older material. This album is easily one of the most anticipated of the year and it looks like the band are going to be bringing the goods. For those who may have been disappointed by Everything Now, these new songs feel more akin to the Funeral era of the band. The run of “Neighborhood 1 (Tunnels),” “Generation A,” and “Haiti” proved that. “Generation A” fit right in with these beloved song. The first guests of the night, a few Haitian musicians, came to the floor during “Haiti” and played along with the band from the middle of the floor. They stayed the rest of the night adding a little extra flavor to the songs from the crowd. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” followed and it was Régine’s turn to come into the crowd as she danced with not only the Haitian musicians, but members of the crowd. There was a long outro to the song with an extended jam with the Haitian singers in the crowd and a few singers on stage.
“Rebellion (Lies)” was especially hard hitting as the band threw their whole bodies into the song and it felt like the set was about to end. The crowd was at it’s loudest point of the night during the chorus yelling lies into the air in time with the band. Moments like this make the last two years of few concerts and events like this all the more meaningful. Watching a band who normally sells out arenas and and headlines festivals play in a room with less than 500 people in it is amazing. Every song, even the new ones, get sung as loud as possible by everyone around you. The floor bounces in a way that the building feels like it’s going to collapse. Everyone has their hands in the air and is dancing their hearts out. I don’t think it will ever be lost how we lost this for so long.
“Everything Now” closed the set and then Mike Meyers came out and while he wasn’t joking at all, he couldn’t help himself as the band came back out and he said “You’ve been asleep for so long with this whole COVID thing…now it’s time to wake up”, and with a wink and a wave he left the stage as the band launched into the beloved Funeral song that usually closes the show. “Wake Up” is an all time concert moment and the band knows it. When the song ended though the crowd looked at one another as to what could come next. Win very nicely asked the crowd to put their phones down as the band wanted to premiere a song for us since it was the last night of the Bowery run. After calling out one fan who tried to make a joke of it and the crowd booing that person, the band launched into “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” and it sounded great. It feels like it might be the next single and has a great sing a long chorus to it.
With that, Win came back into the crowd as he wanted to watch with everyone else what was about to happen. He introduced the band’s old friend David Byrne and they played the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance” with David taking all of John Lennon’s parts. It was quite the way to end the run of shows, but once the song was over the show wasn’t quite finished as the band paraded the crowd out of the venue, into the subway, and eventually back to the front of the Bowery. The way that the band has embraced the New Orleans second line has been a lot of fun over the last few tours and it’s always a fun to close the night out. The new album WE is out in May and I’m sure a tour is going to be announced very soon and it is definitely a must see later this year.
Article/Images: Bryan Lasky