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Arcade Fire embraced multimedia's virtues and vices at last night's show

Written by
David Brendan Hall

Armed only with a smart phone and an Instagram account or YouTube channel, it seems anyone is now capable of transforming themselves into a spectacle. With their fifth album Everything Now (released July 28) and the production behind the concurrent Infinite Content Tour, which touched down Wednesday night in Austin for a show at Frank Erwin Center, Canadian septet Arcade Fire embraced the look-at-me paradigm while simultaneously burning it to the ground. 

Led by towering frontman Win Butler, the band members made their way to the centerstage setup—built to looked like a boxing ring with Everything Now-branded ropes and all—by parading through the audience, with a live video feed projecting their progress while an announcer’s voice introduced “the undisputed heavyweight champs...weighing in at 2,100 pounds collectively.” The two-hour performance then played out like heated bouts of over-the-top multimedia milieu versus the power of music itself. 

Vintage music video text introduced a couple of tunes (“Electric Blue” and the encore-starting “We Don’t Deserve Love”), infomercial graphics with an exaggerated money counter encased the island-hop of “Put Your Money on Me,” and the light-trail-treated live stream for “Reflektor” was powered by what looked like a cell phone held by Butler in selfie mode as he belted out the lyrics with fans visibly going bananas in the background. 

Yet, as is always the case at Arcade Fire’s concerts, the emotion behind the music ultimately won out over any other dazzling displays.

Butler dedicated “Here Comes the Night Time” to Puerto Rico, “No Cars Go” went out to “all one of you” who saw the group’s first Austin show at the old Emo’s, “The Suburbs” surpassed its predictable emotional pinnacle as an offering “to our friends and family in Houston struggling to get back on their feet,” and main set closer “Creature Comfort,” the most captivating among the new cuts, hammered home the idea that at the most basic level, the seeming inherent vanity of humanity is analogous with a need for connectivity and love in life, without all the bullshit. With an army of Austin’s most ardent voices behind them—“Saying God, make me famous / If you can’t just make it painless”—Arcade Fire once again verified that music is vehicle to that end.

All photos by David Brendan Hall

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