Sometimes it’s a thin line between bravery and overestimation. And one between self-confidence and arrogance. When you’re a band and you reached a certain point of popularity in your career these boundaries tend to vanish especially when the world desperately embraces every step you’re taking. In the case of ARCADE FIRE probably we’re all – and I’m referring to music journalists and bloggers worldwide – are to blame for the Canadian’s status in 2013. Okay, sorry. Yes, we did it. But it wasn’t just us; it was everyone else from Bono to BOWIE. But mostly it was the band itself. ARCADE FIRE became one of the world’s biggest bands via self-confidence, hard work and a massive amount of talent. Their emotionally heavy anthems of life, love, loss and death are just too good to resist. The latest album Reflektor is another proof for that. They obviously aren’t good in doing things wrong. So why not just celebrating this situation? That’s what this special evening in Berlin yesterday might have been about.
Under their alias THE REFLEKTORS the Canadian superstars are currently playing selected secret club gigs in various cities all over the globe. By the power of the World Wide Web and the word of mouth these shows sell out within the blink of an eye, before you even know they are actually happening. And since ARCADE FIRE always request a special outfit for the night – mainly costume and proper evening attire – the event itself becomes special for everybody who made it into the venue. Berlin’s little club Astra itself was perfectly prepared before the show. The lights were dimmed, decoration hung all over the place and there was even a Mariachi band playing in the lobby. And the currently famous trademarks of the band, the big masks, also made an attendance. People wearing them were walking around the venue, dancing with people and taking photos. Of course we were to believe that this was the band itself. Unlikely but not impossible at all. With a nice musical warm-up mixture of everything from world music to punk rock the temperature heated up.
“My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love” – singing excerpts from 2007’s My Body Is A Cage lead singer Win Butler, his wife Regine and a few others started the show in the middle of the audience in a much reduced way and fully dressed up with skeleton masks. It’s kind of symptomatic for Butler to choose these lines for the opening. It looks like the cage has finally broken with the recording and release of Reflektor. Being heavily influenced by Haitian carnival and culture in general the new record sees the band discovering groove and lightness within these dark times and their very own microcosm. Well, the world is still a miserable place but it shouldn’t break our spirit and belief. ARCADE FIRE learnt it in an intense way during their presence in Haiti. And you might call this form of self-presentation decadent or shallow but everything this event and the band wants is to let us get a glimpse of that spirit.
That’s why the audience is all dressed up. Sharp suits, classy dresses, a lot of face painting and even a few ridiculous costumes. But, hell – its carnival and THE RELFKTORS did their best to bring us its tropical feeling into the cold German autumn. Whoever expected a normal ARCADE FIRE concert might have been slightly disappointed. During the barely 80 minutes the band mostly played the new longplayer and only four older tracks. But, hey, nobody said it would be an ARCADE FIRE gig – it’s THE REFLEKTORS at the end. And the new tunes work quite well with the audience. The dirty groove of the title track, the new wave spirit of You Already Know and the dirty garage rock of Normal Person are true crowd pleasers. Same goes for the pumping Afterlife who’s already on the best way to follow the footsteps of classics like No Cars Go or Rebellion (Lies). And no – these two weren’t played on that night.
The Berlin crowd is usually a difficult one since it is often a victim of oversaturation. But this time the people were highly euphoric. Maybe the costumes offer some form of liberation. But the vibe was really good, really sticky and sweaty. Especially front man Win Butler was the sweating proof of that. He acted as the master of ceremony with a level of coolness and serenity that’s very becoming to him.
The encore consisted of two tracks from the band’s almost ten year old debut album Funeral. The tropical Haiti was an obvious tribute to the band’s roots and their current pool of inspiration while the obligatory Wake Up was a pleaser for all the fans. Ironically it’s the only track that didn’t really fit into the whole ‘club carnival’-concept since it is obviously designed for big arenas. And that’s were ARCADE FIRE actually belong and will mainly attend in the future. Kind of sad when you see such an event. “Set my spirit free” are the closing lines of My Body Is A Cage – and that spirit was clearly noticeable in the Astra on that night. It’s the spirit of “Be who you want to be, dress up as you want to dress and celebrate like you want to celebrate.” And that’s what the band did in the past decade – doing their thing and doing it good. So it’s not entirely our fault at all. Guess we’ll just have to adjust …