Under the ethereal light of a half moon, I kicked up sand with every step closer to the stage at Festival Pier. The six members of Arcade Fire wove a path through the crowd under glaring spotlight, mobbed on either side by ecstatic fans. There was a blip in the beginning of their set, as Win Butler paused the show to summon First Aid for a concertgoer, a typically conscientious and empathetic gesture.
Recovering, the band launched into “No Cars Go,” off Neon Bible. A diverse range of instruments were used to create their dynamic, ever-evolving sound, including an accordion, cello, violin and keytar. The entire set was accompanied by fantastic visuals on double screens, a trippy light show of shifting patterns and vibrant, almost 3D video effects. For “The Suburbs,” clips of the Spike Jonze-directed music video played, while “Put Your Money On me” was accompanied by flashing graphics, a Matrix-like column of floating numbers and television ads for fidget spinners.
Régine Chassagne was magnetic to watch, bringing a theatrical element to the show with enchanting dance moves and wild costume changes. During “Afterlife,” she apparated on a separate stage in a glittering, iridescent cape shawl, like a cross between Bjork and Blondie. Win Butler gave an equally charismatic performance, strutting across the stage in a denim-on-denim jacket emblazoned with the Everything Now logo and bright red boots. The disco ball descended for “Reflektor,” sending splintered diamonds and fractals of light into the air.
“Creature Comfort” is an anthem heavy with images of mania drawn with brutally straight-forward lyrics: “Some girls hate their bodies / Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback.” The song describes feelings of self-hatred and social pressures felt by teens, who today have an ever-watching audience in the form of social media followers. Building to a hysteric, synth-propelled breakdown, the song sent ripples throughout the crowd, a single, unified voice echoing the lyrics back at Butler, connected over shared hurt.
“Everything Now” served as the long-awaited encore, the crowd swooning at the intro piano riff, backed by island-sounding melody on what sounds like a bamboo flute. The song is a culmination of themes Arcade Fire has touched upon with both 2013’s Reflektor (2013) and on last year’s Everything Now; human nature, vanity, the ruthlessness of modern world, the entwined feelings of love and fear. In their social activism and in their music Arcade Fire reminds us of the importance of compassion and being entirely present in our shared experience of the world.–MARIAH HALL