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Lemme Get an Encore: Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire
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Photo by Debi Del Grande

Arcade Fire have reached a point in their career that all indie bands either dream of or disdain: They’re headlining an international arena tour this year on the strength of their blockbuster 2013 release, ReflektorWhile tunes like that album’s title track and the lush anthem “Supersymmetry” are a given, we’ve picked out some older gems and classics that we sincerely hope see stage time in the coming year. It’s all here — Talking Heads covers, EP deep cuts, a song that has never been played live, and all the old favorites from Funeral, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2014. Grab your tickets now, and we’ll see you on the other side.

-Katherine Flynn
Staff Writer

“Black Mirror”

The first track off the band’s sophomore album, “Black Mirror” has several shades of Bowie throughout the four-minute run time: Win Butler’s vocals (black) mirroring the Thin White Duke’s; the ethereal, echoing backdrop; and the piano throughout that reminds of Mike Garson’s semi-bombastic but never distracting playing style. Between Funeral and Neon Bible, the band bought a church and built it into a recording studio, and the acoustics of the space serve the entire album well. But it’s the opener that really showcases that a band like this can create a unique and lasting sound in an atypical environment. –Pat Levy

Total No. of Times Played: 116

Last Time Played: February 11, 2008

“Headlights Look Like Diamonds”


I saw Arcade Fire four times in 2005 (back when they were still billed as The Arcade Fire), and “Headlights Look Like Diamonds” is the track that evaded me every time. It was actually resurrected during The Reflektors’ warm-up at the Hollywood Palladium (not at the Capitol Records gig I attended, naturally), only to fall back into obscurity again. With its increasingly frenetic stacking of sounds and vocal layers building up to an exhilarating climax, “Diamonds” is a perfect choice for the requisite early-era set highlight for the old-school fans. –Frank Mojica

Total No. of Times Played: 60

Last Time Played: October 31, 2013

“City with No Children”


Eventually, Arcade Fire will run out of setlist space for all of their “fan favorite that needs to be played every show” anthems, but at least for the time being, “City with No Children” needs to be on that list, right up there with “Wake Up” and “Sprawl II”. The Springsteeny sixth track off The Suburbs has held up better and better every year since 2010 and carries first-rate sing-along potential — both those badges supported especially by the chorus resolution: “A garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside/ Of a private prison.” Steven Arroyo

Total No. of Times Played: 14

Last Time Played: July 29, 2011

“Cold Wind”


“There’s music on the station/ And I’m just listening to cold wind whistling,” Win Butler sings, driving through the night. The rhythm guitar sweeps chilled arpeggios around Butler’s voice, while the simple rhythm section rolls by steadily like the tires of the car he rides in. Butler has described how he wrote the song about traveling with his brother and wife to San Fransisco for the funeral of his grandfather (presumably the Butlers’ maternal grandfather, swing musician Alvino Rey), and the idea of the tight-knit Arcade Fire family pushing through the cold wind together, reaching those “hey hey hey”s near the song’s end, is an endearingly powerful one, a chilling breath of air in the midst of their big, iconic anthems. –Adam Kivel

Total No. of Times Played: 22

Last Time Played: November 29, 2010

“This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”


The influence of Talking Heads on the music of Arcade Fire is an obvious one, and the band actually covered “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” regularly on their Funeral tour. Sure, the band have more than enough songs in their library to not have to dip into covers, but that didn’t stop them from recently paying homage to Devo. The crowd would go wild if Arcade Fire did the song justice one last time. Frank Mojica

Total No. of Times Played: 21

Last Time Played: May 4, 2005

“Lenin”


Many fans likely missed this gem from 2009’s Dark Was the Night, a fundraising compilation for AIDS awareness charity Red Hot (and produced by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National). “Lenin” deserves its rightful place among the great early Arcade Fire songs. All the pieces are there: swinging tempo, rollicking guitar and piano lines, and that trademark crescendo that turns a simple chorus into a life-affirming exclamation. Plus, it has the line, “Daddy, daddy, can you send me a heart that isn’t made of cement?”, which is awesome. Arcade Fire don’t seem to have performed it in concert, so it’s prime for a live revival. –Kris Lenz

Total No. of Times Played: 0

Last Time Played: N/A

“Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”


As the first track on the band’s nearly flawless debut album, Funeral, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” probably served as many future fans’ introduction to Arcade Fire — and what an introduction it is. Even now, the first strains of that tinkling, antique-sounding piano coupled with the percussive strains of strings remind me of the panoramic opening shot of a film and subsequently send shivers down my spine. It would be the perfect piece to bring the Reflektor tour full circle, helping to remind us that while the band is now exploring far-flung locales, it all started, as most things do, in a childhood bedroom. Katherine Flynn

Total No. of Times Played: 314

Last Time Played: September 22, 2011

“Half Light II (No Celebration)”


Most fans know “Sprawl II” front-to-back at this point, but The Suburbs had a pair of two-parters that transitioned from ominous, brutally slow lurkers into surging, upbeat conclusions. The other, the Side A-closing “Half Light”, is almost as good as “Sprawl”, its second half representing one of the band’s most overlooked songs. Since this Reflektor tour is supposed to be the band’s most dance-focused yet, “Half Light II (No Celebration)” has never been a better potential fit for their setlist. –Steven Arroyo

Total No. of Times Played: 8

Last Time Played: October 23, 2011

“Windowsill”


While it hasn’t been performed live since 2008, “Windowsill” was once a reliable concert staple. Often situated in a mid-tempo block with album mates “Intervention” and “Neon Bible”, it shows the band at their subdued best. The melody is sweet as expected, and while they build toward a trademark crescendo, they show remarkable restraint, just dabbling at the edges without ever bubbling over. Considering the driving, dance-heavy rhythms of their current Reflektor-heavy setlist, “Windowsill” would offer a nice change of pace. It would give the presumably tuxedoed, fancy-dressed audience a moment’s respite and time to reflect on the growing poignancy of the lyrics. –Kris Lenz

Total No. of Times Played: 44

Last Time Played: January 23, 2008

“Intervention”


Those organ chords! Arcade Fire recorded Neon Bible in a converted church, but when they performed this showstopper on the accompanying tour, every single venue became a place of communion. There’s always been something religious about an Arcade Fire concert, an “us vs. them” inclusive experience, where the crowd is one with the band. The “you” in “Intervention” is Butler, and it’s all of us, having to deal with “the church,” “the king,” and “the soldier,” trying to find a home for that “spark of friendship and love.” And these concerts, singing back these lyrics to someone who gets it, with other people who get it, is why Arcade Fire shows are so powerful. They don’t have to drag the organ out on the road to get that power, either, so there’s no reason this shouldn’t make it back onto a setlist. –Adam Kivel

Total No. of Times Played: 254

Last Time Played: October 23, 2011

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