MANCHESTER, TENN. - -- Arcade Fire made its Bonnaroo debut last night (June 10), and frontman Win Butler seemed somewhat at home.
"My brother and I grew up in Houston and it's great to feel the proper humidity for once," the Montreal resident said, referring to his brother Will. His button-down insistently stuck to his chest and the top of his arms. “It’s really cold where I live.”
Butler busted up the set of hit after hit with little side-notes and addresses, calming the attendees between songs after 90+ degree-heated tizzies. Fists would pump in the air, with emphasis on lines like “The rain can't get you wet / But do you think your righteousness could pay the interest on your debt?” from “City With No Children” and, naturally, “Lies / Lies” from “Rebellion.”
At the Bonnaroo music festival, there’s an undercurrent of subversion, a desire and want to turn the minor humiliations of expensive food, unpleasant conditions, bottled water and port-o-potty lines into something with Meaning. A Summer of Love Revisited, maybe, or a revival of – as Buffalo Springfield puts it – “something happening here.” For the most part, there’s not (although organizers have some phenomenal environmental awareness and programming here).
So perhaps it was said with a smirk, then, as Win rang the alarm for the cause of Partying, exclaiming, “Hey you f*cking hippies, let’s do it,” before banging out “Month of May.” Richard Reed Parry sung his parts into a megaphone, right before the lead singer put his hands up in prayer and crossed himself.
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After winning a mega-Grammy, touring internationally for year, the ilk, Arcade Fire has turned itself into an enjoyable, well-oiled machine that excels at motions of grandeur like that. Like fist-pumping, there are gestures and sounds that give second thought to what you believe when you’re singing the lyrics back at its originators.
And the band at least is aware of the dangers of overstatement. Ever since disaster struck in Haiti, they have been a force in collecting money and raising awareness for Partners In Health, their non-profit of choice. Win’s cohort and wife Regine Chassagne spent a number of years in the impoverished nation, and they frequently dedicate the song “Haiti” to its people. But in so many words: “Sh*t is very f*cked-up there, but they’re carrying on,” Win said, before briefly promoting PIH. Chassagne delivered beautifully, ever-improving, rocking a shiny dress and loads of sass.
The setlist – below – didn’t deliver any odd collaborations or insane covers songs. It was your typical Arcade Fire set. But something tells me that they've thought over everything, twice over.
Here is Arcade Fire’s setlist at Bonnaroo:
Ready to Start
Keep the Car Running
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
City With No Children
The Suburbs/The Suburbs (Continued)
Month of May Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
We Used to Wait
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Everything: Bonnaroo 2011
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