Voodoo 2016 Preview: Arcade Fire

09:37 October 28, 2016

Altar Stage, 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Arcade Fire stands as one of the more prominent indie rock bands of the 2000’s. Hands down. With Win Butler, his brother Will and wife Regine, they’ve carved out a unique space in the music world. Since their first album, Funeral, released in 2004, the Butlers, Regine and company have produced (at this point) four extremely solid records, all venturing into different and more expanding territories then the last. But, let’s start at the beginning.

With Funeral, the band embarked on a journey that comprised itself of songs about regret, torment and brutal honesty that stood as a breath of fresh air in the alternative music scene. I still remember the purchasing that record like it was yesterday. I had heard the lead single “Rebellion (Lies),” but I was still unprepared for the sound which they released. The best and most uplifting track of the record, “Wake Up,” soars to new heights of openness in a field of uncertainty and trepidation at figuring out their place in the world.

Over and over again, those same feelings creep into the music created under the banner of the band. Take an album like their third, aptly titled The Suburbs. This is the record that not only got them an Album of the Year Grammy, but also entered them comfortably into the legitimate mainstream. They went from being a band music snobs worshipped to being on primetime television, beating various others in the process of becoming a solid force of good in the music industry. We’ll get back to that record, though, in a second.

Voodoo 2016 Preview: Arcade Fire

The music created has evolved over time, with each record keeping the spirit of the band intact, but also showing how effortlessly they seem to adapt from one project to another. A great representation of that transformation is their second album, Neon Bible. With Butler’s low, truthful voice at the helm, the band could expand their sound to a myriad of environments. And even though Bible doesn’t always hit the highs of its predecessor, it’s a logical step in their career. That record, quite a bit darker than Funeral, perfectly sets the scene for the experience. Tracks like the closer, “My Body is a Cage,” frown upon the world and open your eyes to the pains of everyday living. This is done so well, I think, because the band brilliantly recorded the album in a church they converted into a studio.

But then, somehow this brilliant band from Montreal came back a few years later with what I consider to be their masterpiece. The Suburbs not only expanded their sound again, but also firmly placed itself in the heart of anyone who’s ever felt stuck in the sprawling, mundane world of a teenager. Growing up, feeling like you don’t belong … this record falls squarely into your mind and heart. Much of the success of the record lies in the themes presented, but you can’t overlook the fact that this is a band that’s both very serious about its craft and has the knowledge to put the ideas forward in a way that doesn’t feel stale or overdone.  

The music they present is honest, powerful and utterly cathartic in a manner that many bands simply can’t produce. As it stands now, Suburbs is the height of their excellence (in my opinion), but that doesn’t mean the musicians stopped creating and pushing themselves to new terrains. As an artist, the worst thing you can do is to repeat yourself, and with their fourth album, Reflektor, they took on a whole different set of ideas and created the record most unlike their previous releases.

Reflektor comes from the same body that the last records inhabited, but there’s something new and exciting throughout. It’s more danceable at times, with the synth playing a more integral part in the process. With sections recorded in Jamaica and our city of New Orleans, these aspects are critical to the album and show the band as extremely willing to go outside of their comfort zone. They create something new and original in a sea of monotonous drifting ideals.

Performing at this year’s Voodoo Fest for the first time, Arcade Fire will present a show that’s high on energy and honesty, as well as craftsmanship and spirit which propels the band and the surrounding audience into a state of thoughtful fun hard to find elsewhere. If you’ve seen them before, you know they deliver, but never expect exactly the same show. As of late, they’ve been throwing in Bowie songs in honor of not only one of the most important musicians of all time, but also a huge proponent and fan of the band all the way back to their first recordings. Try it out. You might end up loving them and becoming obsessed like I did all those years ago. Take a chance, and don’t be afraid to “Wake Up” to a world full of awesome, deeply personal records that are as thoughtful as they are inspiring.

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