Contrary to its name, Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now” had a long and gradual build-up before its release on July 28. Publicity stunts are hardly new for the band; to publicize their second album in 2006, the Canadian alternative rock group set up a hotline, 1 (866) NEON-BIBLE, that played “Intervention” for callers.
Thus, it’s hardly a surprise that the lead-up to their fifth studio album was characterized by a bizarre and perfectly 2017 marketing promotion. The band’s adaptation of a new logo and repeated use of the phrase “infinite content” helped fuel speculation, but the most notable stunt was their fake news campaign. Centered around a mysterious Twitter account that briefly uploaded an excerpt of the album, fake articles about Arcade Fire started to make headlines, including “Arcade Fire files multiple legal claims over ‘Millennial Whoop’” with the group purportedly claiming intellectual property rights to the phrase “Wa-oh-wa-oh,” and an article titled “Win Butler: Shredded Rock Star Workout” that prescribed doing 20 woodchoppers with a guitar to get a body like Butler’s.
The successful promotion run may have set expectations for “Everything Now” too high to meet, especially since the album has proven to be Arcade Fire’s most divisive yet. Rolling Stone said the album was “about having a cultural banquet on offer and still feeling hungry … a perfect soundtrack” but the Boston Globe claimed that “there’s nearly nothing left of early Arcade Fire’s poignant lyricism or cathartic sweep.”
But their Sept. 15 performance on the “Infinite Content” tour made it clear that powerhouse Arcade Fire can still take a punch from critics and come out on top. With the square stage made to look like a boxing ring, the group walked onto the floor at TD Garden on Friday night accompanied by bright lights, a cheering crowd, a boisterous announcer and a flashing video screen proclaiming them the heavyweight champions of the world.
Whatever one’s opinion of “Everything Now,” Arcade Fire’s masterful showmanship and intense passion were apparent from the moment they played the first few notes of the album’s first single of the same name. Between the soaring keyboards and the peppy flute sample, the performance was spirited and genuine, making spacious TD Garden feel like a much more intimate venue. Throughout the continuous two-hour show, most of the stadium was standing and dancing along, a testament to the group’s ability to keep the energy going.
There was hardly a moment to breathe before they launched into “Signs of Life,” after which they departed from “Everything Now” and delved into some older songs, which were well received by the audience. Overall, there was a good balance between albums, with three songs from “Reflektor” (2013), four from “The Suburbs” (2010), three from “Neon Bible” (2007) and three from “Funeral” (2004). Of note was that the tour promoting “Everything Now” featured only six of 13 songs from that album, and notably lacked the eponymous song “Infinite Content.”
The concert was filled with poignant moments, often with audience participation. During the string melody at the end of “Rebellion (Lies)” (2004), Butler cued the audience to sing along. Then, during the sweet, low refrains of “Neon Bible” (2007), the audience was told to turn on their phone lights, creating a peaceful moment in an otherwise high-energy show. In the solemn time following “Neon Bible,” Butler explained that, since both he and his brother Will grew up in Houston, the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey was a tragedy close to his heart. He asked the audience to donate to the cause, before launching into “The Suburbs” (2010), a song inspired by their upbringing in a Houston suburb. Near the end, a video featuring a computer-generated David Bowie during the late artist’s feature on “Reflektor” (2013) drew cheers from the audience.
For the beginning of the encore, Butler weaved through the crowd during a soulful rendition of “We Don’t Deserve Love” (2017), complete with karaoke-style lyrics, before rejoining the rest of the band on stage. “Everything Now (continued)” (2017) kept the mood mellow, slowly building up the energy until flashing lights and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band accompanied them for “Wake Up” (2004).
Arcade Fire truly proved themselves to be heavyweight champions of alternative rock, if not the world. As the band exited the stage to the “Wake Up” chorus, it was hard not to feel infinitely content.