Montreal's Arcade Fire welcomed home by fans
Published Wednesday, February 7, 2007 3:07PM EST
MONTREAL - Some spent hours lined up in bone-chilling temperatures. Other resorted to ticket scalpers or called in favours from well-connected friends.
In the end, it was well worth the effort for about 650 euphoric Arcade Fire fans who jammed a century-old brick building to witness the long-awaited homecoming of the indie rock supergroup.
"Thank you for coming,'' boyish front man Win Butler said simply after opening Tuesday's show with a grin and two new songs from the band's upcoming album, "Neon Bible.''
"We can't tell you how good it is to be here.''
With barely enough room for Butler, his cohorts and their collection of string, brass and percussion instruments onstage, the group unleashed a wall of sound for their enraptured audience.
Next to Butler (who sported a new, short haircut), wife Regine Chassagne kept up the ecstatic mood with Bjork-like shrieks and the drone of a custom-made hurdy-gurdy, steadily turning a crank on the unorthodox string instrument for the propulsive "Keep the Car Running,'' from the new disc.
The intimate show was the first of five Montreal concerts at the city's Ukrainian Federation to preview material from "Neon Bible,'' which has driven the band's followers into a frenzy of anticipation ahead of its March 6 release.
Tickets were snapped up less than five minutes after they went on sale for $25 in December, forcing desperate fans to turn to resellers who offered seats for upwards of $300 a pair. Another 50 tickets made available at noon Tuesday had people lining up as early as 3 a.m.
Trixie Dumont raised $1,800 for charity by selling a pair of tickets -- donated by the concert promoter -- for each of the five nights. Dumont, who gave the proceeds to a local mission where she volunteers, said she had buyers from Nova Scotia and British Columbia, as well as a high bid of more than $400 for one pair.
Karl Philip, 25, of Trois Rivieres, Que., scored a pair by simultaneously working the phone and an online sale site, but said such extraordinary lengths were worth it for these rising stars, known for their onstage theatrics.
The chance to catch Arcade Fire at a small venue may never come again, he said, given the worldwide clamour that has been steadily building since their 2004 debut album "Funeral.''
Meliza Ash, a 26-year-old photographer, afterwards declared the show the best she's seen in her life.
"There was like a magic feeling,'' Ash said. "It was like everybody was in love for the time of their show. Everybody was looking at everybody, everybody was smiling. It was wonderful.''
Butler delighted fans midway through the show by making his way through the crush of bobbing bodies and then suddenly popping up in the middle of the crowd to sing "Rebellion (Lies).'' Later, brass instruments blared from the balcony overhead during "Tunnels,'' and at the end of the night most of the band returned to the crowd for a group sing-along of "Wake Up.''
At shows held last week in a church in London, England, the band migrated to the front doors of the venue and spilled out onto the street. Freezing weather apparently proved too much for a similar stunt in Montreal.
A sweat-drenched Butler was seen winding his way back to the stage after briefly sticking his head outside to find a blustery winter night.
"It's too cold!'' he muttered as he headed back indoors.
Ash said Arcade Fire's dedicated showmanship and frequent interaction with the public keeps fans loyal and eager for more.
"It shows the artist as on the same step of their public but with a lot of respect, it's not like an idol,'' Ash said of the band's frequent audience forays.
Music watcher Alan Cross predicted a big year for the homegrown heroes, whose expansive anthems have won high-profile fans including Coldplay, U2 and David Bowie.
He noted that few other big rock acts have albums in the pipe, paving the way for another year of accolades for Arcade Fire.
"The timing is right, in the sense that all the superstar acts have disappeared,'' Cross, host of the syndicated radio show "The Ongoing History of New Music,'' said in an interview from Toronto.
"It's there for the taking. They've got no Coldplay to go up against, you know, U2, Green Day, they're all away. I think they should do well.''