After the critical and popular success of 2010’s The Suburbs, which won the Grammy for album of the year in 2011, Arcade Fire has some tough shoes to fill: Its own.
Some critics have called the latest album, Reflektor, a bit frothy — lacking the beautifully melancholic, creatively orchestrated genius of The Suburbs. Still on Tuesday, Reflektor’s official release date, the band — whose members include Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury and Sarah Neufeld — took Capitol Records’ Hollywood office by storm and pulled off a night that was, simply put: fun.
The “secret gig” — with a location kept under wraps until days before the event — was put on by MTV Iggy, MTV’s global music brand, and Intel Corporation, who collaborated with The Music Experiment 2.0. The partnership offered fans the opportunity to win tickets through various media outlets. The Twitter contest, for example, asked fans to tweet what Reflektor means to them in six words.
The show focused on songs from the new album, opening with the title hit “Reflektor.” The song, an upbeat number that incorporated piano solos, rhythmic drums and interesting wordplay has some surprisingly somber lyrics: “I thought I found a way to enter / it’s just a Reflektor.” Arcade Fire is no stranger to penning melancholic lyrics that don’t match the energetic tempo and feel of their songs and this dichotomy existed throughout much of the show and the album as a whole. This set the tone for the night: fun, but thoughtful. Perhaps the band took a cue from album co-producer James Murphy, formerly of the band LCD Soundsytem, whose “Someone Great,” among others, accomplishes a similar feat.
Now for the setting. Upon entering the parking lot next to Capitol Records, the crowd looked 30 feet up or so to find the band playing on an elevated platform, as silver, sparkling streamers cascaded down — reflecting, if you will.
Spirited and energized fans could be seen dancing in outlandish, dazzling outfits. The theme for the night was “be a reflektor” and some really took that to heart. One man wore an entire silver sequined suit with a matching hat and tie. A few audience members took a cue from Pinterest and were spotted wearing outfits with broken up CD bits glued on in a DIY fashion. Others mimicked outfits from Arcade Fire music videos, or dressed in generally sparkly attire.
As for the setlist, the band focused on tracks off the new album in the first half of the night: “Afterlife,” “We Exist” and “Normal Person,” among others. These songs had everyone dancing, as much of Reflektor is riddled with funky rhythms and interesting beats.
Though the show favored the new and less familiar, the band also played fan favorite “Haiti” the first throwback of the night from the band’s first album, Funeral. The excitement of the crowd and sense of nostalgia was infectious.
Also notable was an enthused rendition of “Here Comes the Night Time,” which was followed by an explosion of confetti, sending the crowd into an eruption of cheers and the band into a brief intermission.
Like clockwork, the seven-piece group came back, playing the closing track on Reflektor, “Supersymmetry,” a soft, airy and sweetly sung number. “Sprawl II” followed, a lively, popular hit from The Suburbs, so lively, in fact, that it could have fit right in with the mood and overall vibe of Reflektor.
Butler offered his thank yous, and finally said, “We’ll shut up and play the hits,” surely a reference to James Murphy’s 2012 documentary.
The finale: “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” from 2004’s Funeral. The track was a blast from the past; Funeral came out when the band had been together just a few years, and thinking back to the band’s pre-Grammy days incited a sense of nostalgia for longtime fans. It was a total success and the perfect sendoff into the night.
The night was a celebratory one, and from the looks of it, fans and band members alike would not have wanted to debut the new album any other way.
Now it’s time for fans to pore over the album and listen for something new they hadn’t found in the first five to six listens during the two days its been out.
Until next time, Arcade Fire.
Follow C. Molly on Twitter @CMollySmith