Concert Review: Arcade Fire at The Woodlands Pavilion on May 4th

Last night was Arcade Fire’s first time to play in The Woodlands, TX which is coincidentally the birthplace of Win Butler’s lyrical inspiration behind their grammy award winning album The Suburbs.  It was also only their third time to play in and around the Houston metropolis.  Without stopping in Houston for their Neon Bible tour, the last couple of gigs they did were at Mary Jane’s/ Fat Cat’s (now Pearl Bar on Washington) in January 2005 and June 2004 while touring in support of Funeral (Sept. 2004).

A lot has changed for the little somewhat unknown band that I saw at Mary Jane’s / Fat Cat’s (R.I.P.) in January 2005 who is now the most popular indie band success story in the country.  To take you back to 2005, Arcade Fire had just released Funeral a few months prior to their show in Houston.  Their popularity was on the rise but still quite underground.  Fat Cat’s was a cramped place with a maximum capacity of maybe 750 but always perfect for an intimate gig.  In my more youthful years, being in the front row was something that was a necessary evil for my poor legs.  Needless to say, we were definitely front row to Richard Parry’s (the ginger kid) toxic B.O.  Opened by their unheard of violinist, Owen Pallett, the performance was phenomenal and almost overpowering for such a small place.  The only other time since that AF show that a venue seemed too modest for such overwhelming performers was when I saw Typhoon at SXSW.  With my hair blown back by the band’s chants and Regine Chassagne’s always charming grins and twirling hand gestures, this was one for the books.  Win mentioned at the time that there were a lot of friends and family in the audience.

Setlist: January 2005 at Fat Cat’s

Three albums down and a little over 6 years later, Win and Will Butler are back performing where the two men ripened. “Ready to Start” was the opening song to emanate the night.  After the song was over Win expressed, “Good evening, it’s good to be home.  We will play our asses off and you meet us halfway.”  The vibe last night was electric.  As they performed “Neighborhood #2 (Laikia),” it brought back memories of their first concert attended.  After all these years and hundreds of performances, the high energy was parallel.  The dissimilarity is that the songs were fresh out of languish on the Funeral tour.  Now, the songs have grown legs and become bigger than their initial meaning. Even as the band first went on stage you couldn’t help but ponder by looking at Win’s smirk how many times he had observed shows at this venue.  We would all soon find out before the fourth song “City With No Children” that Win used to work at the Woodlands Pavilion, “I used to work here as a ticket taker.  Let me know if you need anything. This song is sort of about here.”  The slowest of all the songs “Sprawl 1 (Flatland)” featured Win’s vocals, “This song is about taking a trip back the The Woodlands and getting pulled over by a cop.”

As more enthusiastic songs were played from The Suburbs, an epiphany occurred about the album.  The Suburbs always seemed like a fortunate young man complaining about his privileged upbringing but in reality he is very appreciative of this place he calls home.  It was a tale of coming of age, growing up and moving on.  After “Intervention” Win mentioned “There are a lot of family and friends here tonight, just wanted to say hi.”  It was cute to see during “The Suburbs,” Regine gaze admiringly while playing drums over at her hubby Win who was playing the piano and singing “So can you understand? Why I want a daughter while I’m still young, I want to hold her hand.”  With only a few songs before the encore, Win said “When I was a ticket taker, I would stop taking tickets and let them come to the front” which of course then filled up the aisles with cell phone cameras in the air.  As adorable Regine swung around streamers in circles while singing the encore “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” and security shoved the aisle blockers out of the way, Win sarcastically said, “Thank you for keeping the aisles clean, we are trying to keep a nice neighborhood here.”  It’s nice to see a really successful band still live up to their worthy praises.

Setlist:
Ready To Start ^
Keep The Car Running +
Neighborhood #2 (Laika) *
City With No Children ^
Rococo ^
Sprawl 1 (Flatland) ^
Haiti *
Intervention +
The Suburbs ^
Month Of May ^
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) *
No Cars Go +
We Used To Wait ^
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) *
Rebellion (Lies) *

Encore:
Wake Up *
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) ^

Funeral (Sept. 2004) = *
Neon Bible (March 2007) = +
The Suburbs (Aug. 2010) = ^

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