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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Music

Arcade Fire comes home to ‘Suburbs’ where it started


Winning the Grammy for Album of the Year in February opened Arcade Fire to a new audience of fans, as well as a new level of expectations for its performances, but frontman Win Butler is up to the challenge.

“We’re going to play our asses off for you guys,” Butler said before launching into “Keep the Car Running.”

“It feels good to be home.”

The homecoming for the Woodlands-native Butler and his brother, Will, saw the band rip through a “Suburbs”-heavy 18-song set that never lost steam, with Will bouncing around on stage like a deranged hype-man and the band’s songs coming to life with a muscular bounce and thump that cannot be captured with a recording.

The eight-member band was constantly in motion, performing Chinese fire drills between songs as they swapped instruments and places on stage.

Win’s wife and Arcade Fire co-founder, Régine Chassagne, found herself all over the stage. She opened on drums when “Ready to Start” led off, but also played keyboards, a hurdy gurdy (think a wind-up accordion), and twirled and shimmered in a short gold dress as she belted out the vocals for “Haiti” and the show’s closer “Sprawl (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”

After blasting through “No Cars Go,” Butler shared his experience as a former ticket-taker at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

“When the lights cut out, I stopped checking tickets,” Butler said. “I would just let people come down by the stage.”

As the band revved up for “Neighborhoods #3 (Power Out),” a flood of fans rushed the stage from the outer reaches of the pavilion. Tim Kingsbury’s bass boogie carried seamlessly from that tune into a groovy rendition of “Rebellion (Lies).”

Arcade Fire’s energy was more than welcome after a lackluster set from Austin-based Explosions in the Sky. The four-member instrumental band seems better suited to a pair of headphones for late-night listening rather than a live show.

Schmillion, a five-member all-girl band who also hail from Austin, opened the show and was a bit hit-or-miss in terms of quality. However, they did bring a Yeah Yeah Yeahs attitude, some early-Soundgarden guitar and punk energy. While Schmillion’s music actually reached the audience’s ears, Explosions simply encouraged people to play Words with Friends.

Arcade Fire’s performance exceeded the lofty expectations that come with winning Album of the Year — and proved that sometimes, cool things do happen in the suburbs.

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