March 19, 2022

Arcade Fire played Bowery Ballroom

A day after announcing their new album, Arcade Fire showed up in New York City to play a surprise show at Bowery Ballroom.

Arcade Fire have wasted no time getting back to business. It had been five years since their last record and nearly four years since they played their last proper shows as a full band. Now, they've announced a new album, shared the lead single, and after playing two shows in their adopted hometown of New Orleans, the band capped off their week with a blockbuster show at Manhattan's infamous and intimate Bowery Ballroom. At 4:00pm, the band stood in front of the venue, posted a few flyers, and announced that doors would open at 8:00pm. Tickets were available at the box office only, one per person, and at a suggested donation with all the profits going to benefit Ukraine. Then, six hours later, the band took to the stage at what was now the hottest ticket in town. The past few times I've seen the band, they were headlining Madison Sq Garden, Barclays Center, and the short-lived Panorama Festival. Bowery Ballroom was set to be their smallest show in NYC in nearly twenty years. Obviously, anticipation was at an all-time high. As the band took to the stage amidst a wash of glowing backlight, they dove straight into the unreleased "Age of Anxiety I" from their upcoming sixth album, WE. A synth heavy number, it gave off the vibes of something from their most recent records and not the callback to their hey-day like the first singles, but the breakdown gave it a groove and helped get the crowd get warmed up for what was to come. It was a night of hits from a dearly beloved band at one of their most intimate shows in years (the crowd was well below the 500-person capacity limits) and everything felt close and part of a deeply communal experience. From the new song straight into the classic march and thump of "Ready to Start," its jagged guitar riff cutting the night open and allowing the audience's emotions to run wild for the remainder of the show. Regine came to centerstage to unveil laser-shooting gloves that looked as if they could make Daft Punk jealous. It felt so personal and direct with each verse hitting new levels of nostalgia as the entire room shouted along with everything they had. The waltzing "The Suburbs" was dedicated to the people of Ukraine and struck more emotional strings that put the audience right in the palms of the band, everyone was ready to surrender to the group's definitive power that was set to lead us out of the darkness and into the light. After a rousing "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" gave the night its fist big jolt of crowd affection reaching into the stratosphere, the band dished out "Generation A," a track they performed on Stephen Colbert, but failed to make the track list for the new record. Of course as soon as Regine took to the forefront of the stage with her head mic firmly in place, we knew what was next. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" was their first real push towards a new wave, disco sound and it still remains a highlight in their catalogue. The buzzing rhythms and humming synths gave it infinite sparkle and her towering vocals launched it to the heavens. On top of that, her voguing and well defined dance moves put her front and center, commanding the attention of everyone in the room and showcasing her talents as the show runner. "Everything Now" still continues to sound better in a crowded room than it does on record, but it was "Afterlife" that kept things going and really elongated the steady grooves of the night just before caving in to "Reflektor" and taking the dancing back up a notch. "Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)" was another new track that made its way to the set list and gave more of a taste for what's to come. A slow burner with electronic elements running through it, the song hit a stride before the beat dropped and a dance party ensued. It seems that a theme of the new record could be songs that come in halves and quickly change at the drop of a hat to up the energy and bring the crowd to their feet. "Creature Comfort" was another better than expected jam that got everyone engaged in their classic call and response singalong before ending things with the euphoric "Keep the Car Running" which had people leaping together in unison with sheer bliss. For the encore, we were treated to the new single "The Lightning I, II" which felt as massive and moving as I expected and will surely only grow as they play it for larger audiences. As the band lined up on the front of the stage, they held their guitars like battle axes and stood shoulder-to-shoulder belting out the hit. It felt very Springsteen-esque with the band giving it all they had and no one looked more excited to be there than Dan Broeckner who was filling in for Will Butler. Even a day after its release, being able to chant "waiting for that lightning" with a room full of people was an absolute joy. To close out the night, the band went straight for the gold and unleashed a stunning "Rebellion (Lies)" that felt absolutely larger than life, before "Wake Up" raised spirits to the heavens. It was a life-affirming moment and one of unquestionable power that reached deep down within to release total elation. As is their tradition, once the group began to disperse, Win, Regine, Richard Reed Perry and others joined a New Orleans marching band and brought the party to the street. As the band and the crowd poured out of Bowery Ballroom, people kept the chant of "Wake Up" alive as the masses took over the sidewalks and began to block traffic as everyone crossed the street before taking a brief dip into the subway before heading back inside the venue and saying good night. Hours before, this was an unknown and even now it feels almost like a dream. A band of a generation playing their hearts out to a room of loyal devoted fans isn't something one's likely to forget and Arcade Fire made sure to make it one for the ages.

Set list:

01 "Age of Anxiety I"
02 "Ready to Start"
03 "The Suburbs"
04 "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
05 "Generation A"
06 "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
07 "Everything Now"
08 "Haïti"
09 "Afterlife"
10 "Reflektor"
11 "Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)"
12 "Creature Comfort"
13 "Keep the Car Running"
14 "The Lightning I, II"
15 "Rebellion (Lies)"
16 "Wake Up"

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