For a 20-something who grew up in Minnesota, it seems almost sacrilegious that I’ve never been to the Xcel Energy Center. Most of the big shows I’ve been to end up at First Avenue or Target Center, so walking in to see Arcade Fire, I had no idea what I was in for.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the arena was the fact that the stage was in the center of the room, as opposed to pushed up against one wall. There were instruments set up all around the square stage and disco balls on either side of the stage reflecting little blue light around the room until it was time for the music to start. Above the stage, screens on each side gave everyone in the massive arena a good look at what was going on.
Up first were the Breeders, the alternative rock band formed by Kim Deal from the Pixies and Tanya Donelly from Throwing Muses. The band was introduced by an on-screen space cowboy, who hosted most of the night. The group has a very classic rock sound that got people excited and moving. At one point they covered “Happiness is a Warm Gun” by the Beatles after one audience member just shouted out, “I love the Beatles.” When the band played their song “Driving on 9,” Sarah Neufeld, violinist for Arcade Fire, joined them on stage. The band finished their set with “No Aloha,” which got the crowd cheering and dancing.
As we waited for Arcade Fire, the crew prepped the stage, which included setting up the sides of the stage to look like a boxing ring. Fake advertisements also flashed across the screen, promoting products based off some of the songs: electric blue eye drops and creature comfort cereal.
Then the lights went out, and an announcer introduced the band in the vein of a boxing match as they walked through the crowd to get to the stage. Once on stage, they kicked it off with the most popular song off their new album: “Everything Now.” The crowd was immediately on their feet dancing around and singing or (in my case) screaming along. The band moved around the stage during the song with microphones around the perimeter that any of them could use, and a raised rotating disk in the middle for the drums and piano.
The band kept the energy up as they seamlessly transitioned from one song to the next with tons of lights and effects on the screen. The show was as much the theatrics of the lights and video as it was great music and energy.
The group took a pause before going into “Electric Blue” to acknowledge that they hadn’t been back to Minnesota since Prince passed away, so they dedicated the song to him.
The show continued with same crazy energy. Every time I thought we were at the peak, they raised the energy a little more. Even on the less dance-y tracks like “My Body is a Cage,” they still kept the crowd on their feet and moved around the stage.
During “Reflektor,” Régine Chassagne, the lead female vocalist, went out and danced with the crowd. For “Afterlife,” Win Butler also entered the crowd, even coming to the seated section I happened to be in.
The final song was “Wake Up,” which had so much energy behind it that people were singing at the top of their lungs. After that the band walked through the crowd parade-style, singing the classic Ben E. King song “Stand By Me.”
I left the concert with a huge smile on my face. It’d been a long time since I’d been to a concert where I danced so hard and sang so loud. Looking around, you could see that everyone was having a great time up until the very end.
Writer Jeyca Maldonado-Medina is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Photographer Emmet Kowler works with lights all day and takes photos after dark.
Read Cecilia Johnson’s recent interview with Will Butler and Tim Kingsbury of Arcade Fire here.