Friday, May 18th, 2007

Neon Bible

I did not have a good Tuesday. Already stressed from having twice as many days worth of things to do before I left on vacation than I had days to do them, it was one of those days at work – not one those days, one of THOSE days. Sufficed to say, by the time I got home I had half a mind to just go down to Massey Hall, sell my Arcade Fire ticket to the first scalper I saw who didn’t look to have any communicable diseases and just go back home, watch the now-canceled Veronica Mars and go to sleep. I mean, I didn’t even like Neon Bible all that much and my seat was kind of crap. But, of course, I didn’t do any of that because it would have been overdramatic and silly. But it should give you some idea of my spirits going into the show.

I’d give Plague Park, the debut from openers Handsome Furs a quick listen earlier in the day and was reminded that Dan Boeckner was the vocalist in Wolf Parade that I didn’t mind so much. And despite not having much affection for his main band (though I mean to give them another shot), I rather enjoyed the Handsome Furs stuff, both on record and live – though dressed up in some rather raw synth/blues clothing, there were some classic rock songs underneath that reminded me, though the reference point is way overused these days, of Springsteen. And while this is the part where I’d usually say that the two-piece (guitar and keys) band configuration is unnecessarily limiting, for Handsome Furs I think it actually works just right. Nice stuff.

The Arcade Fire stage setup was an interesting one, with a number of circular screens set up around the back perimeter of the stage, vertical neon lights around the front and a mountain of amps, organs, drums and equipment in the middle of it all. When the lights dimmed at around 8:40 (early shows!), a short film of what looked to be a televangelist-type rambling on was shown on the screens until the band took the stage and opening with a massive church organ swell, it was “Black Mirror” and we were off. Arcade Fire have always been a wholly impressive live band – I’ll wager many of their fans were converted at a show as opposed to by the album – but watching them on the legendary Massey Hall stage, they seemed far more assured than I’d ever seen before. In the past, it seemed like they were attempting to harness an energy that was always within their grasp but also had them at its mercy – this time, they were in full command and were electrifying from start to finish.

Some may yearn for the days when the band played loft parties and tiny clubs, but seeing them in a hall as massive and packed as Massey was an experience that I wouldn’t give up for any of those (except maybe bragging rights). Arcade Fire aren’t about intimacy, they’re about grandiosity. Maybe that’s why their records leave me a little cold, they just can’t contain everything the band is trying to convey. In fact, a live Arcade Fire show is probably more like musical theatre than a typical concert in terms of spectacle, even though the band doesn’t really do anything overtly actorly in the course of the show. But the stage dressings for the current show – the fisheye cameras placed around the stage and projected onto the screens, the projections onto the stage curtains, all certainly felt very theatrical.

It’s probably a bit hackneyed to say, but if I were a religious person this was a day that would have driven me to find some solace in church. And while much of Arcade Fire’s themes are overtly religious (the did dedicate “(Antichrist Television Blues)” to the late Jerry Fallwell), that’s not what made the show feel so spiritually vibrant – it was the sense of celebration and musical communion between the band and the congregation, 2700 strong, the fact that Massey Hall was, for an hour and a half changed from a concert hall into a cathedral. Maybe a bit effusive but I can say that while I didn’t find God in the Arcade Fire nor did I become any bigger a fan of the band than I was before, on that night, after that day, this show was exactly what I needed.

Naturally the local media was also in attendance – the show got thumbs up from The Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Torontoist and Chart while The Globe & Mail was rather less impressed. eye was in attendance for the Wednesday night show and Michael Barclay has posted the source interviews for this AOL piece from January in three parts at Radio Free Canuckistan.

Photos: Arcade Fire, Handsome Furs @ Massey Hall – May 15, 2007
MP3: Arcade Fire – “Black Mirror”
MP3: Handsome Furs – “What We Had”
Video: Handsome Furs – “Dumb Animals” (MOV)
MySpace: Arcade Fire

The Village Voice talks to Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner of The National and MusicOmh to Berninger alone.

The AV Club has now posted that promised interview with Jeff Tweedy.

Filter gets to know Band Of Horses.

Salt Lake City Weekly chats with Craig and Tad of The Hold Steady.

Sad news from Land Of Talk – in an interview with Gen Art Pulse, Liz Powell revealed that drummer Bucky Wheaton had left the band and was being replaced by a friend by name of Eric (no surname given). While I’m obviously disappointed to see the wicked chemistry of the band disrupted, I assume Wheaton will still appear on the majority of the forthcoming full-length album. Help welcome Eric to the band when they play the Horseshoe on May 28 opening for The Rosebuds.

Pitchfork has release details for the solo debut of former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman under the name of Taken By Trees. Open Field will be out June 18 worldwide except for the US, which will have a release date announced eventually.

…And that’s everything. That’s all I’ve got before departing this godforsaken continent. I’ve queued up some little daily blips while I’m away so you don’t get too lonesome, but I’ll be back properly and (hopefully) refreshed in some way first weekend of June. Thanks, and see you later.

By : Frank Yang at 8:19 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. danieljosef says:

    Have a good trip Frank!

  2. kathryn says:

    I love love love the screens and real-time meta-ness of the live video. The video clip they show before the band takes the stage is very offsettling; it’s Suzanne Hinn’s "Holy Ghost Enema":

  3. monkeyinabox says:

    Great photos, considering you had "crap" seats. ;)

  4. Dimitri says:

    Hey Frank,

    A great review, AMAZING photos, and all the very best with your trip!!

  5. eggman says:

    I think calling Arcade Fire "religious" because they dedicated "Antichrist Television Blues" to the late Jerry Falwell is missing the point a bit. Given the content of the song and Winn’s past in Houston, Texas and exposure to the kind of megachurch Falwell has helped spread like a plague across the country, Winn was probably being ironic.

  6. frank in germanz says:

    eggman´- I too was being ironic.

  7. yak says:

    hey frank,
    you knew you were going to go see that show regardless. The only reason you stated that kind of didn’t want to go was cause you like to be up close at all of your shows, but your seats at this show wouldn’t allow for this. You couldn’t keep yourself away, and your pics turned out okay, so stop bitching.

  8. frank in prague says:

    well I knew what my seats were three months ago when I bought the ticket and was fine with it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go because the day of the show I had a foul, FOUL day at work and didn’t really want to go anywhere. But that’s moot now so whatever.