Last night kicked off my month of awesome concerts… and what a perfect kick off! I had heard that Arcade Fire put on a memorable and powerful live performance, however, they exceeded my expectations many fold. What a show…
The venue itself, The Greek Theater at UC Berkeley is a star in its own right. Some of the finest concerts I’ve seen in the last 15 or so years have been there… an older outdoor amphitheater with concrete steps and seats… general admission… large floor area… and a comfy lawn for those not inclined to be in the more dense crowd. Beer and wine kiosks conveniently located… port-o-pottys a plenty… and being outdoors under the starry sky (which almost every time I’ve been there has been somewhat, if not entirely overcast). Yes, the seats are uncomfortable… Mrs. Blahg ended up with a great deal of spilled beer on her rear quarters due to someone kicking over their beverage and allowing it to waterfall down the concrete seats one row at a time… but with enough libations, discomfort was not an issue.
The opening band was surprisingly entertaining… Calexico. Great sound. I believe they too have about 7 members, big sound, multi instrumental, great energy and a country/rock/Mexico infused sound. Their set seemed to go a bit longer than many other openers I’ve seen, yet for a change I didn’t mind and didn’t feel that time was spent waiting for the main act.
And of course… the main act took to the stage… Arcade Fire. A band that is currently enjoying massive success thanks to a slow burn album from 2004, Funeral, an amazing follow up, 2007s Neon Bible and most recently the instant best selling album The Suburbs. With all the chatter going on with regards to their music they appear to be standing at that edge of massive stardom…. their music is anthemic, big and live… they were sublime, living up to all expectations. Their set was a mix bag from all albums, relying heavily on their lastest outing yet peppered throughout with crown favorites…. obviously paced in such a way that we never felt a dull moment. You know that point in many shows when the artist pulls out the moving ballad or slower song the bassist’s cousin really likes? It didn’t really rear it’s boring head here. The show had momentum! And although I’ve seen their performance on Austen City Limits and a recent webcast of their Madison Square Garden show… I was stunned to finally get a feel for their energy in person.
If you have seen any of those televised performance, you will also know how they ended their performances…. with a rousing and down right emotional rendering of Wake Up. Has there been a more moving and universally relatable song regarding aging and childhood awareness? With thanks for Spike Jones for including this song in the Where the Wild Things Are trailer… he opened the band up internationally and caused a huge number of grown men and women to weep within two minutes with a sonic blast of the pain and beauty of growing up. When the band took their now familiar places on stage with the large drum up front, we knew the end was near. And although I am not quite the “sing-a-long” type, I dare anyone not to be moved into joining in as this song kicks in. Anytime I hear this song I think about my two girls and how they love to sing in the car and reiterate the line “…someone… told me not to cry”….. and I will always begin to cry.
An amazing show… and a big thanks to our wonderful Canadian neighbors to the north and the fantastic music they keep delivering to us. The first concert I attended when I was 12 years old happened to have been U2 back in 1984… I get the feeling we will be hearing about Arcade Fire in 26 years time.
Still trying to Wake Up…
Cornelius J. Blahg