A Fire in the Garden

August 6th, 2010

Arcade Fire – Madison Square Garden – August 5, 2010

(Photo: Mina K)

(Photo: Mina K)

Both physically and symbolically, Madison Square Garden represents the center of entertainment in New York City. Elongated posters of iconic images remind visitors of the venue’s historic past in sports, music and, yes, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. By the shear force of its name, MSG amplifies all events it houses. So when Arcade Fire booked not one but two headlining dates this August, expectations abounded.

The Canada-based indie-rock band is responsible for two outstanding records, Funeral and Neon Bible, and they released their third album, The Suburbs, this week. While this is a relatively small discography for a band scheduled to sell out “the World’s Most Famous Arena,” songs like “Wake Up” have permeated the mainstream. On Thursday night against any and all doubts, Arcade Fire delivered an unforgettable performance.

Supported by openers Owen Pallett and indie-rock veterans Spoon, Arcade Fire filled the venue with their triumphant songs, boundless energy and wholly transfixed fans. All nine members of the touring band dressed like an advertisement for individuality. In addition to frontman Win Butler’s fawned-over-on-the-Internet haircut, Régine Chassagne wore a sequined dress and Richard Reed Parry seemed to have found one of David Bowie’s vintage jumpsuits. Their appearance, as well as Terry Gilliam’s simultaneous live Webcast, acted as a show within a show. This, however, was secondary to the group’s incredible renditions of anthems “Rebellion (Lies),” “Keep the Car Running” and “Intervention.” There was an urgency and awareness to their performance, which truly connected with the audience. At the end of their encore featuring “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” it strangely felt as if MSG wasn’t big enough for Arcade Fire. —Jared Levy

(Check out highlights of this show here.)