Arcade Fire at Target Center, 3/8/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson

Arcade Fire
Target Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, March 8, 2014

Win Butler is either one of the best rock stars in the world, or one of the worst. He can't dance and sweats a lot. He's overly tall and still feels the need to stand on stage monitors to make himself look even more gigantic. Essentially, he's "My Body is a Cage" personified. His stage banter is overly self-congratulatory and often stilted ("This is song is perfect for the Target Center. It's called 'The Suburbs'"). His singing has improved, but is still a mixed bag. But you can tell he cares. A lot. He is the spirited leader of a creative band that plays passionately, and compensates handily for anything an observer doesn't get when looking directly at him.

For the packed Target Center -- loaded with about 10,000 revelers in tuxes, flapper gowns, and banana suits -- putting a critical monocle up to Butler was pointless with such a barrage of activity everywhere.

See Also: Slideshow: Arcade Fire at Target Center, 3/8/14

Back in 2011, there was a lot of merriment when Arcade Fire's The Suburbs won Album of the Year at the Grammys. Kanye West even tweeted about it. Now the Montreal rock band -- still somehow signed to North Carolina indie label Merge Records -- has scored a related sort of win for those still bothering to keep score: They're playing freaking stadiums arenas now.

Co-produced by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, last year's Reflektor is Arcade Fire's stab at a dance record, and it's pretty resolute. Their current tour presents that material -- and some of the tried-and-true songs dating back to their debut, Funeral -- with a pageantry budget closer to on par with the Lady Gagas, Bruce Springsteens, and U2s.

The show's mirror-dappled main stage was constantly crowded with gear, microphone stands, cords, and an abundance of people. And congas! Simultaneously, an auxiliary stage on the other end of the arena hosted dancers, and spot performances. The band brought Mirror Man and the Bobbleheads, and turned Target Center into a dance party. The show was epic in scope, and occasionally so in execution.
Photos by Tony Nelson

Someone who deserved to stand out a lot more was Butler's wife, Régine Chassagne. Whenever she got to sing, it was as if the lights and glitter sparkled brighter. Their vocal interplay early on, especially on "Reflektor," proved to be the catalyst for the set's highlights. It wasn't until a Talking Heads-y "Haiti" near the end of the set that she was truly allowed to lead the band, and even then, Butler kept standing in front of her.

Big-strumming rockers like "Joan of Arc," "Rococo" (with a riff on Lady Gaga's "Do What U Want" inserted) and "The Suburbs" were best suited for Butler's brute force on the guitar, and he seemed most comfortable with an instrument in his hand. The distilled moment that looked and felt most like a big-ticket event was the Neon Bible standout "No Cars Go." All that was missing was Chris Martin frolicking onstage. With Chassagne on accordion on one side and his workhorse multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Perry on the other, Butler called "Let's go!" triumphantly out to the crowd. And they did!

Photo by Tony Nelson

But his presence faltered when he tried to lead the audience by example. Nowhere was this more apparent than "Afterlife," a head-nodding disco jam off the new record. With mirror ball lights kissing the stage and the crowd, he awkwardly prowled the stage and wasted an opportunity to take the willing fans higher.

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