There were two blizzards of confetti. There was a dancer in a disco-ball suit. There were videos and a sparkling light show. There was a fake band, performers in larger-than-life paper mâché masks, a real 12-piece band and a memorable tribute to the Kansas/Kansas City confusion that trips up most touring bands.
And it all happened at our city’s best outdoor venue on a night when the weather was idyllic.
Fortified by musicians that doubled its ranks from six to 12, Canadian rockers Arcade Fire returned to Starlight Theatre on Saturday, almost three years to the date after their previous performance.
The venue suits them. They nearly filled it again, and, as they did in April 2011, they gave a spirited crowd of 7,500-plus fans a night to remember. In other words, plenty of entertainment: a show, a carnival and personality beyond the songs.
Arcade Fire are touring on “Reflektor,” their latest and most successful album, a collection of songs that are fretful and contemplative lyrically but set to happy dance-rock beats. They played eight of its tracks over the course of the two-hour show, including the opener, “Here Comes the Night Time,” which ended with that first deluge of confetti. Nothing like whipping the place into an immediate encore frenzy. The rip-roaring rendition of the title track, unleashed right before the encore, was one of many highlights.
Win Butler is the leader of Arcade Fire, and he has figured out how to stoke and arouse those big crowds when necessary. But typically, his band’s bouncy grooves and sing-along tunes do the work for him.
He had ample help, starting with his wife, Régine Chassagne, who contributed both lead and background vocals, and his band, which included extra horns, strings and percussion.
The “Reflektor” songs were well-received, but the older material aroused bigger ovations and more visceral responses. The place went nuts for “No Cars Go”; “The Suburbs” also got a big reaction. So did the short, stripped-down version of “My Body Is a Cage,” “Rebellion (Lies) and “Neighborhood No. 3 (Power Out).”
There were satellite performances in the aisles and plenty of visual stimuli behind the band, from the video spectacle to the light shows. And at the onset of the encore, the faux Reflektor band took the stage in those masks (members of the opening band TuneYards) and started singing “Dust in the Wind” by the band Kansas, as a hometown tribute.
Before the crowd could get too bent out of shape over the geographical error, Butler interrupted the song and reminded the singers they were in Missouri.
But mostly there were sturdy, hearty songs written and performed to jolt large crowds in big venues, especially the closer, “Wake Up,” which ended amid another blizzard of confetti.
Plenty of other bands are trying to apply Arcade Fire’s techniques: Enlist a big band with lots of vocals, employ lots of percussion and write foot-stomping songs with rousing, sing-along choruses. The novelty may be wearing off, but the charm isn’t. Arcade Fire still knows how to engage and entertain their fans and give them a show they won’t forget.
Here Comes the Night Time; Flashbulb Eyes; Neighborhood No. 3 (Power Out); Rebellion (Lies); Joan of Arc; Empty Room; Ocean of Noise; The Suburbs; Ready to Start; No Cars Go; Haiti; We Exist; My Body Is a Cage; Afterlife; It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus); Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains); Reflektor. Encore: Dust in the Wind; Normal Person; Wake Up.