Arcade Fire cut through the showy trappings of their tour delighting fans with a 23 song, two-hour-plus set.
If concertgoers weren’t aware of the not-so-subtle themes behind Arcade Fire’s new album “Everything Now,” they’d need only show up a little early to the band’s KeyArena show Sunday night.
Black banners bearing the record’s initials flanked the central stage, which was styled to look like a boxing ring. A ticker of cultish corporate logos flashed around the arena. On overhead screens, garish infomercials hawked nonexistent products. At one point, a faceless cowboy with a Canadian’s idea of a Texas accent interrupted the pre-show music to urge the crowd to buy merch: “Your memory ain’t what it used to be.”
The thrust of all this was clear: Music, fandom and even the act of going to a concert have all become hopelessly commodified by social media and other techno-capitalist forces. (Now please consider buying a T-shirt.)
But once the band toned down the thematics and theatrics — right after taking the stage to a WWE-style introduction that mentioned how many Grammys they’ve won — the music showed off the strength of their back catalog and, despite the band’s aloof posturing during this album cycle, their conviction in it.
The two-hour, 23-song set was heavy on old material, especially songs from celebrated debut “Funeral.” They provoked a palpable reaction: The show didn’t really get going until the third song, “Rebellion (Lies),” which followed the first two songs from “Everything Now,” including the ABBA-indebted title track.
Arcade Fire played as a nonet, with a battery of gear lining the border of the theater-in-the-round-style stage, which also employed a lazy Susan-like rotating platform at its center. Players switched freely between instruments, especially Régine Chassagne, who handled keys, accordion and drum kit, in addition to lead vocals, at various points. The subtle shifts in texture were the mark of a band that understands how to present its music in a place like KeyArena.
As rock singers are wont to do, Win Butler played to the crowd, calling Seattle “a sacred music town,” name-dropping Kurt Cobain and Neumo’s and weighing in on the city’s tech boom. “Don’t let those Silicon [expletive] run you out of town,” he told the audience before playing “Neon Bible” standout “No Cars Go.”
Referencing gentrification was maybe more than just lip service. After the show, the band was hosting an event at Barboza in support of police-reform Initiative I-940, where Butler moderated a panel on social-justice issues. Participants included activist and former Seattle mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver.
In the crowd, there was much singing and clapping, the kind of communal spirit Arcade Fire hints at on its recordings. This was especially true during the second half of the set, which gradually built momentum via a series of dancey tracks — “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” “Sprawl II,” “Reflektor,” — before peaking with “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” a ragged dance-punk tune that’s one of the band’s best songs.
As it usually does, Arcade Fire closed with “Wake Up,” their most anthemic rock song. It’s also their most earnest, with a collectively sung wordless chorus, chugging arena-rock guitars and lyrics about lost innocence and growing up. Try as they might to seem jaded, Arcade Fire is as sincere as ever, and that’s why people cared in the first place.