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Arcade Fire at the Canadian Tire Centre – Ottawa Live Review

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By Owen Maxwell

Friday March 14th, 2014

Montreal art-pop band Arcade Fire played their first Ottawa show in years on Friday March 14 at the Canadian Tire Centre and the show was well worth the wait. With support from DJ Kid Koala and noise-pop master Dan Deacon, the band was set for a great show that only ran into flaws before Arcade Fire actually came on. The arena was a site to see itself, with a tropically themed sound booth and second stage looking like an actual island complimented by a disco ball lighting up the venue and smoke turning the whole place into a dance floor.

Kid Koala

Kid Koala, Polar Bear, The Electric and The Impellers at KOKO, 12th March 2011

Stage Presence: 6/10
Image: 7/10
Musical Ability: 5/10
Originality: 3/10
Crowd Reaction: 3/10

The show got off to a rather rocky start with DJ Kid Koala. The first confusion came when he started his set on the island stage at the back end of the arena, instead of at the front on the stage. This forced the crowd to turn around and created a mild disconnect with a lot of the audience members. After that his set still had its share of problems. A lot of the songs Kid Koala played were old classics with a little electronic sound and DJ-ing over it. Unfortunately this lack of any real originality or great dance songs made the whole set really boring. Even interjections about family members favourite songs were ultimately boring details when the music itself wasn’t engaging enough. Strangely enough the most enjoyable song of his whole set was his original piece for Yo Gabba Gabba! Probably due to the fact that it was the most original piece and best mixed for his setup.

Dan Deacon


Stage Presence: 8/10
Image: 7/10
Musical Ability: 8/10
Originality: 7/10
Crowd Reaction: 8/10

Next on the island was Dan Deacon, who started his electronic-heavy set with pumping bass and amazing highs. Deacon decided to pump the crowd up by making dancing circles and dance-offs with crowd members competing against each other, making for a really interactive show that finally got the audience involved. Although a little repetitive his music had a really interesting sound, using a pitch shifter to make his voice octaves higher and fit the music better, adding to the gripping feel of his music. Ultimately the one issue this set really suffered from besides the aforementioned back of crowd problem was the fact that opening for an indie-rock band like Arcade Fire with noise-driven dance music is playing to the wrong crowd and there was a general sense the crowd wasn’t always into it. Deacon put on a great set though; unfortunately it just was a little inappropriate for a crowd seeing something like the headliner.

Arcade Fire

Photo taken by Jean Levac from the Ottawa Citizen

Photo taken by Jean Levac from the Ottawa Citizen

Stage Presence: 9/10
Image: 10/10
Musical Ability: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Crowd Reaction: 10/10

When headliners Arcade Fire took the stage the crowd finally came alive. After an unexplained break between the island sets (considering the main stage should have taken no time to set up having been empty), as soon as the band started their new single “Reflektor” the crowd was singing to every word and jumping to every beat.

The show was just as visually gripping at times as it was musically, with mirrored bass drums, a mirror covered overhead for the band, hand mirrors for singer Regine Chassagne, a mirror man and even a back tarp whose image changed with the colour of light placed on it.

Before even getting to the bands the show had a magical quality to it. While crowd members were waiting to get in the venue, the band walked through the entranceway in their tour-made papier-mâché heads and even sent out a mariachi band to do a few stylized covers of their songs and others like “No Woman No Cry.” When the audience was finally let in the band members were on the floor dancing in their heads and posing with fans, it had a really touching quality to it.

Arcade Fire played through the majority of their new album to great reaction; the crowd knew every word, which is pretty rare. When the band played old hits like “Power Out” with steel drums and “The Suburbs” the crowd was even more ecstatic and the audience chanting elevated the whole experience. Moments like when Will Butler beat a hand-tom to death and Chassagne’s duet with husband Win Butler on the Island made the show a unique spectacle. When Chassagne stepped up for her song “Sprawl ll” there wasn’t any hesitation from the crowd. They had been waiting for it and her dancing at the end with neon tassels made it feel like the band hasn’t been jaded yet by the limelight.

When Arcade Fire came back on for their encore and played “Wake Up” the crowd was arm-in-arm swaying with each other. The euphoric chanting of its theme made the concert feel like a uniting of all the people in town who’d been changed by the song. It gave a truly heartfelt moment to the show that ended up echoing on my bus trip home when the riders resurrected the chant. 

Arcade Fire by Jean Levac from Ottawa Citizen. Other pictures taken from the Internet.


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