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Arcade Fire packs a punch at a boxing-themed concert in Independence

Arcade fire
Arcade fire

The members of Arcade Fire were introduced as the “world heavyweight champions” as they made their dramatic entrance at the boxing-themed concert at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena on Friday.

No one in the audience of about 5,000 could doubt that the Canadian band packs a wallop following its athletic two-hour performance.  Yet Arcade Fire can’t be compared to a traditional pugilist.  The band relies on the musical equivalent of fancy footwork and effective feints.  The 22 songs on the set list came as a series of well-aimed jabs rather as than powerful knockout blows.

Centered on unorthodox themes like mortality, capitalism, religion and classism, Arcade Fire’s intellectually rigorous songs have attracted bookish fans since its debut album “Funeral” was released in 2004.  The group’s gradual evolution from insular chamber-rock to populist dance-pop was enacted with lavish aplomb.

The astonishing creativity and nonpareil production made the show an uninterrupted marvel.  The boxing bell that band co-founder Régine Chassagne rang to start the show from behind the ropes of the boxing ring-like stage in the center of the venue was one of many ingenious small touches.  The large-scale elements of the set were correspondingly impressive.  

Video screens above the stage combined live footage from multiple camera angles with supplemental prerecorded images.  The most delightful component of the spectacular light show were the revolving mirrored disco balls at the ends of the arena, an old-school touch that emphasized Arcade Fire’s embrace of dance music.

A team of stagehands frantically transformed the stage between songs.  The musicians frequently traded positions and instruments, ensuring that every fan got a good look at each member of the expansive ensemble.  Chassagne ventured into the audience during an extended rendition of the futuristic disco anthem “Reflektor.”  Her husband Win Butler interacted with fans while crooning the metaphysical “Afterlife.”

A reading of “The Suburbs,” the title track of the 2010 release that won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, is among the songs that might have seemed histrionic had it not been rendered with exquisite grace and boundless enthusiasm.  Bomba Estéreo, the Columbian synth-pop and rock en español that appeared on the evening’s undercard, retook the stage for a jubilant collaboration on “Wake Up” that revealed the Arcade Fire’s link to the stomp-and-shout folk movement.  

While a smattering of empty seats indicated that the band’s claim to the ranking is disputed, the concert proved that Arcade Fire remains an imposing contender for the title of the world’s best rock band.

Set list: Everything Now; Signs of Life; Rebellion (Lies); Here Comes the Night Time; No Cars Go; Electric Blue; Put Your Money on Me; Neon Bible; Rococo; Infinite_Content; Keep the Car Running; Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels); The Suburbs; Ready to Start; Sprawl II; Reflektor; Afterlife; Creature Comfort; Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)l We Don’t Deserve Love; Everything Now (continued); Wake Up