11:39 PM: Arcade Fire at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta

(Note: Funeral is the name of the Arcade Fire's debut LP. Buy it here)

The pseudo-hipsters were out in full force Wednesday night in Atlanta, and for good reason - the Arcade Fire was in town, at an all-ages venue. A packed house awaited the band even before the stage lights went down, and everyone was buzzing about the merry musicians from Montreal.
Final Fantasy, the stage name of Hidden Cameras’ violinist Owen Pallett, opened the night with an interesting mix of humorous, angry, and self-deprecating songs using looped melodies from his violin. Before beginning his set, Pallett announced to the audience that he had driven straight through from New Orleans the night before, and hadn’t slept in nearly two days. This combined with the fact that he was already battling a severe cold made for a relatively grumpy violinist. Three songs in, after getting little more than a pity response from the over-anxious audience, Pallet decided to win the crowd over with a spectacular cover of Joanna Newsom’s “Peach Plum Pear.” The song was a revelation on the violin, and Pallett’s fragile voice added a new layer to Newsom’s lyrics, transforming the precocious tale of a girl finally acknowledging the emotional rift between herself and her boyfriend into a heartbreakingly bleak account of a once beautiful relationship gone stale. With the crowd now in the palm of his hand, Pallet spent the next five minutes lecturing the audience on the positive effects of taxation, before performing his last song, “What Will They Do Next,” about Canada’s government’s decision to increase taxes on cigarettes, a move the violinist wholeheartedly approves of.

Download Final Fantasy's cover of "Peach Plum Pear" here.

Thanks goes to Richard for finding the mp3.

After a short break, the Arcade Fire walked on stage, armed with at least a dozen instruments, and went right into “Tunnels,” Funeral’s opening song. Less than a minute into the show, it became apparent that pretty much everything said about the band’s live show is true: Every band member plays at least three instruments and sings along to every song, whether they’re near a microphone or not, and the emotional intensity that has come to define the band is magnified ten fold in the live setting. But perhaps the most impressive part of the whole experience was the fact that noone in the audience was as excited about what was happening on stage as the band members themselves. Looking around throughout the show, I spotted wide-eyed audience members screaming, jumping around, pumping their fists, and dancing in the spastic style usually reserved only for fans at Faint and New Order concerts and people suffering from cerebral palsy. As happy as these people were, they were no match for Arcade Fire keyboardist/bassist/drummer Richard Parry who, armed with a motorcycle helmet and two drumsticks, made it his personal mission to turn everything in sight into an instrument, whether it be a cymbal, stage crew member, one of the many amps on stage, or himself. Contrived or not, the unorthodox instrumentation heightened the crowd’s energy to a nearly palpable state, and inspiring other band members to join in, creating a chaotic, intense, and possibly dangerous atmosphere for the rest of the show.
After a string of slower songs, namely "7 Kettles," "No Cars Go," "Crown of Love," and "Une Annee Sans Lumiere," the band once again ratcheted up the crowd’s energy, climaxing the show with a hard rocking, intense final third that included "Laika," "Power’s Out," and "Rebellion (Lies)." Lead singer Win Butler finally came unglued during "Power’s Out," ditching his responsibilities as lead guitarist to jump around and dance on stage, stopping only to scream the lyrics into his microphone when necessary, and to make sure everyone else in the band was as excited as he seemed to be. After closing the set with Laika, the band left for several minutes before coming back on stage for a two song encore.
The encore’s first song was "Intervention," a brand new song that had only been played three times for an audience, according to Butler. "Intervention" worked well live, establishing itself as a middle ground between the band’s harder rocking, spontaneous sing-alongs and slower, more calculated ballads. A surprising number of fans already had the lyrics memorized and sang along, much to the band’s excitement (as if they needed any more). After "Intervention," Butler’s wife Régine Chassagne took center stage, and the band launched into "In the Backseat," Funeral’s closer. In the Backseat is my least favorite song on Funeral, but when performed live exposed itself as the band’s secret weapon - a song that perfectly encapsulates the predominant themes of Funeral (death, helplessness, and perseverance) lyrically and musically, and provides the perfect crescendo to close the band’s live show.
After walking off the stage at the end of the encore, still playing, the band walked out into the crowd and reprised the chorus of “In the Backseat” one last time.
No covers, no false starts, no bullshit. The Arcade Fire lived up to every bit of the hype their live show has generated and, refreshingly, appear to be completely oblivious of their current indie god status.