Concert Review: The Arcade Fire & Kite Pilot (November 29, 2004, Omaha, NE)

If you’ve read my review of Arcade Fire’s Funeral, you’re probably well aware that it’s next to impossible for me to discuss Arcade Fire’s music in terms that aren’t, well, nigh-religious. And I’m afraid that after seeing them last night, I probably won’t stop doing so anytime soon. You see, it’s one thing to see a band put on an intense show. It’s quite another to see a band take the stage as if their lives, and perhaps even their very souls, depended on it.

Looking at both the crowd and the band as they performed — from Win Butler’s wild-eyed, sweat-drenched face to Regine Chassagne’s Pippi Longstocking-esque hair bouncing around as she prowled and skipped across the stage — I could understand why parents and authorities have always been concerned by rock n’ roll’s power over the young uns. A good concert gets your body a-movin,’ but a great show has a decidedly spiritual aspect to it — and there is something distinctly spiritual about this band and their music.

The anthemic group shouts and frenzied manner in which the 6 band members flung themselves headlong into their maelstrom like people possessed. The wall of sound that made up the transition from “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” into “Rebellion (Lies).” The opening bass thrums and Motown breakdown of “Wake Up” (the band’s call to arms). The lyrics that call the listener to wake up and live life to the fullest (“The power’s out in the heart of man/Take it from your heart put in your hand”).

Experiencing these things live felt like nothing less than a baptism by fire, and at times, I was moving, shouting, and hitting the wall in ways that would have raised a more than a few charismatic eyebrows.

Most of Arcade Fire’s set consisted of material from Funeral, plus a couple of songs from the band’s 2003 self-released EP (a recording that only hints at Funeral’s potential). And, thankfully, they played their cover of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” a song that has become increasingly important to me over the months. Pitchfork be damned, but I think Arcade Fire’s version is quite brilliant — Butler’s yelping, stilted vocals fill David Byrne’s shoes quite nicely, and frankly, who really cares if they use steel drums?

I can’t help but wonder about the legacy that this first Omaha performance will leave behind. In a simpler, less cynical time, a performance like this would be sending ripples throughout the community. Bands would be convicted into laying down their instruments, having just been shown how it’s done. And just as many bands would be inspired to reach for something bigger and better. I hope we haven’t grow so cynical and blinded that music this pure, this impassioned, this (ahem) spiritual doesn’t have some sort of impact, and isn’t simply forgotten about by the time next week’s “big” show rolls around.

Opening up the night was Kite Pilot, a local band that I’ve been meaning to see for awhile. They proved well worth the wait — they sounded phenomenal and were a perfect opener for Arcade Fire. I suppose at this stage in the game, it’s impossible for any Omaha-based indie band to escape the shadow of Saddle Creek. Which, unfortunately, is probably something that Kite Pilot has been subjected to frequently.

However, for every moment that I may have been reminded of Bright Eyes and Co., I heard stray bits of the Elephant Six collective, and even a few post-rocky bits and pieces à la Do Make Say Think. Much of this had to do with Todd Hanton, whose keys, theremin, and gorgeous trumpet really fleshed out the band’s sound in a lovely way. As I said, well worth the wait.

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