Last Night At ACL: The Arcade Fire Bids the Crowd Farewell "For a Couple of Years"?

Arcade Fire 

Austin City Limits Music Festival 
September 18, 2011

Better than: having to sit through an Eagles set at the end of ACL.

​On Sunday Night at Zilker Park, the largest crowd of the weekend converged on the Bud Light stage, where Arcade Fire was scheduled to play the one and only closing set of the 2011 Austin City Limits Music Festival. Turns out, according to an offhanded comment by singer Win Butler, that it would be the last chance the crowd would get to see Arcade Fire play for a while.

"We probably won't see you guys for a couple of years," he said, "so take care of yourselves."

The crowd, who barely seemed to notice the comment at the end of the band's set, was a diverse one -- thanks to a long list of electro and hip hop acts on the festival's bill -- but Win Butler and his Arcade Fire turned out to be the great equalizer. The audience was united under a single notion: nostalgia.

The music appealed to the kid in everyone, inciting a rebellion that we should've had during our suburban youth, which could be revisited for one night. The band brought a strong us-against-them mentality, inviting the audience to be a part of the us

With the unity came a spiritual connection between audience and band. Similar to the feeling of being at a Bruce Springsteen or U2 concert, there was a togetherness that felt like being in a church service. Granted, it would be a church service where the guy next to you is getting stoned. Still, it was a rare treat to hear a live performance of "Speaking In Tongues," a song that uses a spiritual metaphor and a chorus that begs for audience participation. 

The crowd bought right in, singing along with a wide range of cuts from all three of the band's records, though, doing so most enthusiastically on songs from Funeral. In fact, on "Wake Up," you could hardly hear the band for the crowd shouting out the wordless chorus. 

Soon after, the band went into a mellow version of "Suburbs," but ended their regular set with an energetic "Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)." 

Unlike My Morning Jacket the night before, The Arcade Fire came back out for an encore, playing a sort of a reprise of "Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)" immediately. Finally, just before they said goodnight, Regine Chassagne led "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," while twirling ribbons on the front edge of the stage.

That's when Butler spoke his eerie parting words to the crowd. Who knows what he meant by it, though. Probably nothing.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I've loved Arcade Fire since I got Funeral, and each album that followed has gotten better. I still prefer the performance that they put on at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas about four months ago. It was tighter and more proficient, while this one was more energetic. 

Random Note: It only took a few songs for the band to get polical. Butler said "It's like Groundhog day. We wrote this song the last time a Texas governor was running for president." 

By The Way: Arcade Fire basically played the exact same set as they did only four months before at Gexa Energy Paviion. While the Gexa performance was more precise, the sheer size of the crowd and the onstage energy made this one a different show altogether.

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