LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire take over Minneapolis

By Aaron Brown

LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire filled every inch of the cavernous Roy Wilkins Auditorium Sunday night with a wildly appreciative and receptive audience of garden variety, collegiate-aged hipsters. This was an evening for the record books; the joyously popish dance-rock of LCD acted as the perfect appetizer for the main course of passionate, darkly resonant tracks from Arcade Fire’s latest album, “Neon Bible.”James Murphy, the man behind LCD Soundsystem, and his live band exemplified everything right with catchy, feel good dance music. Murphy’s boisterous voice was strong enough to match the high-octane percussion that accompanies and often leads the songs on LCD’s latest album, “The Sound of Silver.” There’s an element of unbridled buoyancy in Murphy’s act; Daft Punk is playing at his house, his house, dammit, and he wants you to know about it and he wants everyone to have a good time.

LCD Soundsystem’s extended opening set allowed the band to get into a fantastic rhythm and play crowd favorites “Someone Great” and “All Our Friends.” The occasional repetitive nature of the techno-based songs were the unfortunate lowlights of the set, but the surprising emotional range shown on finale “New York I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down” reinvigorated my faith in catchy pop music with a point. For reasons related to my unbearable whiteness and lackluster physique, I’m not much of a dancer, but I’d be lying if I said that LCD didn’t provide the ultimate opportunity to shake my tight-pants ass (or lackthereof).

When Arcade Fire took the stage, the climactic lighting and music served as an immediate reminder of the immense growth in popularity Arcade Fire has seen in the past few years. Arcade Fire is suddenly a very big deal. It’s been a strange and meteoric rise for the septet from Montreal. In 2004, their first full-length album, “Funeral,” became a word-of-mouth phenomenon, spurred by stories of legendary concerts and the uproarious reviews on the then-fledging music web site Pitchfork Media. Arcade Fire even found themselves in the pages of Time Magazine in 2005; quite the mainstream audience for a Canadian outfit known for les paroles francaises, existential angst and a clove-smoking-drama-geek image. “Neon Bible” came out last February and faced unprecedented expectations among the music community, yet somehow managed to live up to most of the hype. The band’s choice to play at the midsized Roy Wilkins auditorium allowed them to play to more fans than other venues would have permitted, proving their undeniable popularity.

It would be clich to classify Arcade Fire as “larger than life” or their music as “bigger than the band,” yet the shadowy notes of every instrument of their symphonic rock hung in the rafters long after the show was over. Their music is raw; their melodies haunting; their stage presence overwhelming. I can’t help but think of their albums as collections of grimly-veiled, euphoric anthems, and judging by the multitude of fans that hung on every word of crowd favorites “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” or “No Cars Go,” it appears I’m not alone. On Sunday night, frontman Win Butler and his band channeled in person the same juxtaposition of dark, angsty overtones with celebratory, enthusiastic enchantment that stood as such a resounding triumph on their albums.

It’s evident as well that Arcade Fire themselves seem as riveted by their music as we are. I counted 12 musicians dancing while they played instruments ranging from the French horn to the glockenspiel, enthralled by the contagious celebration in their closing song “Wake Up.” Performers ranged from percussionist Richard Perry violently throwing tambourines against drums, to vocalist Rgine Chassagne childishly dancing while screaming into a megaphone, to Butler’s courageous leap into the fans. In any other context, the twelve odd-looking people losing all social inhibitions as they voraciously boogied down might resemble traditional stereotypes of a mental health institute, or at least a very disturbing drug-trip, but Arcade Fire was simply out to have some fun. While it’s unlikely these guys will be touring again in the area anytime soon, the fanatical fine line between resonance and cacophony will be hanging in the rafters (and in my head) until they return.