Arcade Fire ends decade-long absence here with mighty display

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For the past 10 years, which happen to be its 10 years of popularity, Arcade Fire has existed to Pittsburghers as distant faces and sounds on albums and screens.

The Montreal indie-rockers finally appeared in the flesh Wednesday for a Consol Energy Center show that had the band sporting a lot more artillery than at the Rex in '04.

Arcade Fire is going big on this "Reflektor" tour with six extra musicians, arena-sized stagecraft and a flair for the dramatic that extends to the audience. The band's request that fans attend in formal attire or costume was met with a social media sniping, but plenty obliged Wednesday night, arriving in jackets, vests, dresses, masks and even a few wings. The upper section was closed off, as Arcade Fire has yet to build a live connection with this town and unless you're diamond-platinum material, you can't just show up and say, "Here I am." 

The word of mouth should be more than enough for next time.

The evening began with clubby opening sets from Kid Koala and indie/electronica artist Dan Deacon on the B-stage. The lights stayed off between sets for Regine Chassagne to set up on that back stage where she traded vocals from afar with frontman/husband Win Butler, in a funky black-and-white tux jacket, and the band on "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)." She ran to the main stage to join them for "Flashbulbs," a "Reflektor" song that melds the steel drum sound with AF's newfound heavier electronic groove. "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)," one of the more powered-up rockers, quickly lurched people back to the band's gushing "Funeral" sound and showed off the might of a veteran rock ensemble with extra percussionists, horns, strings, etc.

After an apology for being absent for a decade and a reassurance that Pittsburgh was A-OK, Mr. Butler moved to the piano with one of the more open-ended and provocative song introductions you'll hear. "This is a song about not growing up in a cool place and based on looking at you, it seems like a lot of you come from a similar place. This is called 'The Suburbs.' "

Arcade Fire fuels each record with a few rockers, and they churned those out -- "Ready to Start," "Rebellion (Lies)," Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" -- with big rubbery basslines driving the engine. "We Exist," a new song about a gay kid talking to his dad, was sarcastically dedicated to former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. "Google him if you don't know who he is," the singer said. It was paired with subtle war protest "Intervention" and "No Cars Go," a celebration of escape.

The ladies carried "Haiti," with passion and tropical rhythms that spilled into "Afterlife," featuring the appearance in the stands of a mirrored man we saw at the outset of the show. The percolating "Reflektor," which came at the top of the last few shows, brought the main set to a climax along with "Sprawl II," a lovely showcase for Ms. Chassagne's siren vocals and neon streamers.

The band's encores have been starting with "a fake band" on the B stage. This one went regional with Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music," before Arcade Fire cut them short to pound through "Normal Person," joined by a dancer with a TV screen cube on his head -- the Santorum channel -- as Mr. Butler raged, "I've never really ever met a normal person." The singer wore the cube to be Prince for a cover of "Controversy," before releasing a wondrous confetti explosion for "Here Comes the Night Time."

Arcade Fire left the bouncing crowd with the shape-shifting rally cry of "Wake Up," Mr. Butler saying, "We'll be back sooner than 10 years, I swear."

Go next time, because Arcade Fire, though a bit full of itself with its dress code and semi-precious anthems, is a sonic wonder and does this whole arena thing with a sly artistic sensibility that you don't get from any old band.

Set list:

It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)

Flashbulb Eyes (Reflektor)

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

Rebellion (Lies)

We Used to Wait

The Suburbs

Ready to Start

Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

We Exist


No Cars Go




Sprawl II


Play That Funky. Music (Wild Cherry song) (Fake band on B-stage)

Normal Person

Here Comes the Night Time

Wake Up; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg First Published March 13, 2014 12:23 AM

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