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Live Review: Arcade Fire – 10th September 2013 – Salsatheque, Montreal, Canada

5 min read

What transpired on Tuesday night at Salsatheque in Montreal, Quebec, Canada is almost beyond words. The impromptu performance from Arcade Fire, where eight new songs from the bands forthcoming album were performed, was, simply put, an elating experience unlike any other. This is my report of events both leading up to the performance and the performance itself.

For those who don’t know, on Monday September 9th Arcade Fire officially released their new single Reflektor from their upcoming album of the same name. At 9pm in almost every major city around the world, record stores opened their doors to sell the 12’’ vinyl. To commemorate the occasion, Arcade Fire treated their hometown audience in Montreal to a not so secret performance.

On the morning of the 9th, rumours began to circulate that the band would be taking the stage at a very small salsa club in downtown Montreal under their new pseudonym The Reflektors. As early as 9am, people began lining up outside of the club hoping to score tickets. I made my way to the venue at 4pm to meet a line that was already 75 people deep. Based on a poster from the salsa club’s website, only 100 people would gain entry to the performance. Furthermore, people would only be admitted if they adhered to a strict dress code of either formal attire or elaborate costumes.

Tensions were high as people made calls to friends and family to put together some sort of costume in hopes it would be enough to allow them entry. As time marched on, the line grew to enormous proportions as every major media outlet also swarmed the area. No one knew exactly what was going to happen, but we all knew this is where we had to be.

As the sun began to set, spirits began to dampen as many of us began to realize we would not be getting into the club. Then, a black SUV arrived blasting Reflektor from its speakers. Donning masks and sharp-looking suits, the band jumped out and sparked some life back into the large mass of people. The band made their way inside the venue, and shortly afterwards the doors opened. However, of the 1000 or so people who waited in line for hours, only a select few actually made it inside the club. The coolest of the cool, and the best dressed were all granted access leaving the rest of us out in the cold as a loop of Reflektor played.  We were told to abandon hope of making it inside that night’s performance. But, there was still a glimmer of hope to be had. Soon, representatives began selling bracelets for two more performances to be staged over the following two nights. I was fortunate enough to snag a bracelet for Tuesday’s performance. Here is my account of what transpired.

Reflektor Poster

A line began to form on a dreary Tuesday night outside of Salsatheque around 7 PM. There was much less fanfare and a lot less tension as we all eagerly waited for the doors to open. By 9pm about 200 of us made our way into the unusual venue as overbearing salsa music played overhead.

The venue itself was a spectacle, and upon entering it was immediately clear why Arcade Fire had chosen the unusual location. In keeping with their “reflective” theme, the walls and ceilings were mounted with mirrors. Blue and pink neon lights were fixed on the ceiling as a multicolored disco ball illuminated the room. Standing inside Salsatheque felt like standing in a discotheque straight from the 1970s. The energy in the room was incredibly positive. Everyone was smiling from ear to ear, although none of us knew what exactly we were about to see.

Shortly after 9, the music was cut and the band emerged from the back of the room, donning masks reminiscent of Pussy Riot’s balaclavas and wearing white suits splattered with paint. What was made clear from the beginning was that we weren’t here for an Arcade Fire concert; we were here to see The Reflektors.

The band kicked things off with a song presumably titled Here Comes the Night. It was anthemic and catchy in the way that only Arcade Fire knows how to curate. The same disco vibe found on Reflektor was evidenced here with many different types of percussion elements being implemented juxtaposed against a simple yet effective keyboard riff reminiscent of the same riff heard towards the end of Reflektor.

By the end of the second song, the masks were shed to show each member’s face covered in a sort of tribal war paint. This was fitting as what took place over the course of the next hour can only be described as a tribal experience.

It’s impossible to sum up each song that was played, but what I can tell you is that each song had its own  distinct vibe, style, and overall nature. While The Suburbs was a wholly cohesive album of rock songs, each song played here was its own individual entity.

While many have expressed concern that Reflektor has too much of a pop and disco ambiance, these concerns can be dismissed. Many of the tracks played had a straight up punk-rock vibe and were some of the hardest hitting songs ever heard from Arcade Fire. Yet, many of the songs also encouraged the audience to dance in ways that not even Sprawl II could elicit.

The set ended with a boisterous performance of Reflektor, which enticed the crowd to jump, mosh, scream and shout as the band enthusiastically danced along with us. As the song reached its tipping point, people began crowd surfing in a space definitely not designed for such an activity, which only proved to amplify the energy in the room. By the end of the song we were all left with either brimming smiles or gaped jaws. The one thing everyone in the audience had in common was that none of us could believe what we had just witnessed.

Ultimately, the songs played on Tuesday night were a culmination of every genre, style, and feel imaginable. From Bruce Springsteen, to New Order and everything in between, it seems as through Reflektor will be an album that makes use of a wide array of influences and styles. Some songs implemented elements of 70s punk rock, while others made use of disco vibes. There were even moments of blues and classic rock. What each song had in common with the other  was that they all exhibited the use of experimentation and nuance that only Arcade Fire is capable of.

While the album is still more than a month away from its release, judging from what was heard on Tuesday night, Reflektor is an album that will go down in history.

Pre-Order your copy of Reflektor here