Entering the arena at Madison Square Garden last night, the members of Arcade Fire, led by band leaders and alternating vocalists Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, approached the stage to a rising swell of cheers from the stadium. Except there was no stage—just a platform with a ring. As they reached it one by one, a Jim Ross-type announcer read out statistics about the band, much like before a boxing match. Once every member had climbed their way into the ring, the seven-piece indie darlings launched into ‘Everything Now,’ the title track from their new record, without any hesitation.
So, what is Everything Now? It’s been called cynical—a disappointment to critics who viewed the band as eternally sincere. It also received a near-failing grade from Pitchfork. It’s been accused of being too passive to our political climate.
Is it, though?
Does cynicism lack truth?
Sure, Everything Now can been seen as playing into craved overstimulation, an album and a tour staged on an LED fidget spinner. Their entrance into the ring can be seen as just as fake as the fake album reviews the band posted themselves, or some of the the other marketing stunts that left many confused. Or—stay with me here—they’re curating our culture the same way those before them have. Those who did their own version of what this group is doing. They’ve created a time capsule that people will be able to access for the sum of the time we currently live in. If you don’t like it, change it.
They’re not void of emotion.
They’re full of unfeigned passion, and it exploded when the lights raised, never ceasing in it’s intensity until they left the stage. From the flashing red and blue graphics accompanied by a crawl screen of ‘infinite content’ reminiscent of Fox News or CNN, to the fan of dollar bills during “Put Your Money On Me,” it was exploding with our current culture in the way Chuck Klosterman would probably construct an insightful, pop-culture infused essay. It jumps over content we fill ourselves with. Because we’ve entered the time where tuning in and dropping out are out and plugging in is in, this idea of “Infinite Content” is something we go to bed with and consequently wake up with. It’s tangible; it’s happening right now. You’re doing it.
Standing in the crowd among a group of 20 and 30-somethings, every one of us knew the words and inflection to every song. Dancing throughout the entire set with their hands thrown up, rarely did you see the flash of a phone screen to record the experience we were sharing in real time—something highly unusual for today, when voyeuristic lenses are so easy to get lost in.
Experiencing moments of Funeral and Neon Bible-era Arcade Fire was pure nostalgic joy, and those moments interspersed between the songs on Everything Now was a sonic map of a band that has looked in the mirror, pointed the mirror back at us, and is still as good as they always were. These songs—this band, make it good to feel alive, and here you are, you’re alive! It’s as if David Bowie met U2, with the perfect mix of mysterious yet calculated stage presence and stadium rock command.
There’s cynicism all around us. We’re in a world of constant negativity and overindulgence. I want more, you want more, we all want fame, and no one wants to deal with the pains of life anymore. Spend the money, or don’t—find a way in.
I felt something new from an old place when I finally saw Régine glide through “Sprawl II.” I think we all did.
Signs Of Life
Here Comes The Night Time
No Cars Go
Electric BluePut Your Money On Me
Ready To Start
We Don’t Deserve LoveWake Up
Photos by Paige Winston
Collage by Morgan McMullen