Arcade Fire returned to Chicago for two nights at the United Center as they began to wind down their Reflektor world tour last week. On a continued victory lap, the shows marked the band's first return to the city in over three years. Even with an overhauled stage set up, new band members, and a heralded double album in tow, it still all seemed in short order.
Both nights featured frontman Win Butler presenting balanced set lists that highlighted all four of their masterpiece albums. The Suburbs standout from Régine Chassagne, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” Funeral’s “Wake Up,” and Neon Bible’s “Intervention” all would would have been worth the price of admission alone, but the newest songs from Reflektor, including the title track, “We Exist” and “Normal Person,” were some of the the most exciting of the evening. Perhaps the only thing missing was “Supersymmetry,” a song reserved for just four stops on the tour.
Some of the more interesting moments came when the b-stage at the rear of the audience was implemented -- once with Régine and a pack of bending skeletons during “Oh Orpheus,” a set of local male dancers reinterpreting the video for “We Exist,” and the giant papier-mâché headed Reflektors at the start of the encore.
Night one’s fake-out cover by the Reflektors was Bo Diddley’s “I’m Bad” played by a faux band on a secondary b-stage on the opposite end of the audience, followed up by the real band’s return to the stage to play Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” fronted mostly by Will Butler, with Win sporting skeleton mask and playing hype man.
Night two saw the fake band air play through The Staples Singers' “Slippery People” before gospel legend Mavis Staples joined the band for “This May Be the Last Time,” playing through both The Staples Singers' version and The Rolling Stone’s take before ending the two-night run with “Here Comes The Night Time,” “Normal Person” (complete with a Talking Head’s “Pyscho Killer” intro) and the always triumphant finale “Wake Up.”
Though a mostly successful foray into the world of arena tours, I hope it's a trend this band reverses going forward. Though the costumes and celebratory atmosphere did simulate the feel of something as unique as an intimate club gig, it was still being held in a cavernous stadium with atrocious sound, no matter how good the playing was.