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.
The backlash, apparently, was only confined to media and critical circles. Everything Now was Arcade Fire’s third No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, but the hyped died down almost instantly thereafter. In recent weeks, Arcade Fire doubled down on Everything Now. Frontman Win Butler tried justifying the band’s approach in various interviews. Playing a trolling heel doesn’t suit the Canadian outfit, but their live show doesn’t play into the concept that plagued this record.
When it came time to perform at the Forum, Arcade Fire proved they’re still able to have a magnetic effect on a mesmerized audience. Taking advantage of the venue’s warm sound and sterling acoustics, the band flourished in front of a wildly supportive audience. Once the ropes of boxing ring gave away to an accessible stage that allowed the band — in particular Butler and Chassagne — to spontaneously dash into and dance with the crowd.
To that point, Arcade Fire are one of the rare bands to have built up enough cache with their overly supportive fans. When they played lesser known Everything Now material, few fans wandered off for a beer or bathroom break. Fervently devoted, they sang along to tunes like “Put Your Money On Me” and “Electric Blue,” while a pair of disco balls sparkled and dangled from above, and matrix-styled visuals scrolled on the screens above the stage.
Each member sported garb with the ubiquitous “EN” logo, which may or may not be a play on the absurd, the band ripped through the song that adorned their clothing. Clad in an all-white outfit (with his “EN” on the back of his shirt) and bright orange boots, Butler powered through songs from the band’s five-album catalog with comfort. He stood on monitors, soared high while holding his guitar and fed off the crowd’s kinetic energy.
Regardless of what fans think of Everything Now, and however its legacy shakes out, Arcade Fire proved that they are the rare outfit that can power through a poorly-received album and still deliver a genuinely powerful show. Fans twisted, turned and sang nearly every word of the two-plus hour set. By the time they reached set closer “Wake Up,” the band were drowned out and genuinely pleased by the crowd’s rattling chants to the song’s intro.
For these fans, the missteps of their fifth album didn’t matter. Arcade Fire comfortably reached the Pearl Jam stage of their career where they’re able to make music that they want without worrying about commercial and critical viability. Much like the Seattle veterans, the Canadian outfit’s future is grounded in its hypnotic live show. They’re at home both as festival headliners and as arena rockers. Arcade Fire are too big to fail and even if they do, their fans couldn’t care less.