Arcade Fire entered The Forum last Friday night looking for a fight. The arena, which also doubles as a home for boxing and MMA duels, was the perfect site for the suddenly-combative band to bring the tour to Los Angeles in support of their polarizing 2017 album, Everything Now.
Hat-toting frontman Win Butler, red jumpsuit-wearing Régine Chassagne and company have always been known as a majestic live act, and on this tour they’ve performed with extra incentive. Wearing smirks and smiles, Arcade Fire entered the arena through the meat of the crowd ready to rumble. Doling out high-fives before hopping through the ropes into the boxing ring-shaped stage in the arena’s center, the band’s good spirits masked their true intentions. Tearing through the piano-driven title track and “Signs Of Life,” Arcade Fire performed with grit and fury, which fed into the energy of the supportive crowd and set the tone for the rest of the night.
The backlash to the build-up to Everything Now’s release took the band by surprise, and it isn’t too far-fetched to imagine that Arcade Fire took these critiques personally. For the first time in their career, Arcade Fire faced harsh criticism, and in response, their live show dispelled the notion that they are a boorishly, humorless act who lost their way.
Since the beginning of Everything Now’s peculiar and clumsy rollout, Arcade Fire eschewed and battled against the goodwill that marked their surprising climb from blog favorites to Grammys Album of the Year recipient in 2011. The Montreal-based outfit’s earnestness and accessibility in their relatable tales coincided with their unlikely ascent to indie rock royalty. When they won that aforementioned Grammy for The Suburbs, it was a significant victory for passionate blog/art rock.
It’s easy to look back now, but their semi-shaky follow-up album, Reflektor, started Arcade Fire’s wayward trajectory. Unlike U2’s wayward mid-‘90s path that saw them mock themselves as the world’s biggest band, Arcade Fire’s perplexing snark felt disingenuous. For the first time in their lauded career, Arcade Fire was on the receiving end of critical scorn from the places that launched them in the first place. The band’s smugness made things worse. Previously un-Arcade Fire-esque antics like selling a Kylie Jenner-adorned T-shirt at a European festival and a $110 fidget spinner on their site, was as petty as anything a band of their stature could have done.