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Divinity and Humanity

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 21, 2007 2:50PM

2007_05_arcadefire01.gifWe've only cried twice at rock shows. Once was when the Flaming Lips opened for Beck, and something about "Lightning Strikes The Postman" (was it the strobes? the bullhorn? the crowd's empathic explosion? we don't know) caused our tear ducts to let loose and lose control. The other time was Friday's Arcade Fire show at the Chicago Theatre, as we were surrounded by as unlikely a crowd as we ever expected to see rejoicing in the chords and rhythms of a ten-piece band that calls Canada their physical home, but shares the universally spiritual domain of questioning uncertainty about our place and our world with 99.9% of the populace.

Arcade Fire is quite possibly, no — most definitely — the best live band touring today. No other band brings together such a disparate crowd with their tales of religious abandon and human sadness that, inexplicably, end up being incredibly moving statements that attest to the affirmation of the struggle of getting through life on this planet. They are often compared to U2 in this respect, but when it comes to grand displays of deep emotional resonance, Win Butler and his clan left Bono and company in their wake long ago.

As the evening progressed, the aisles filled, and attendees seemed overtaken by St. Vitus' dance, writhing and hopping and clapping and hollering along to the band's exhortations. Only a stone golem would be impervious to this group's influence, and even then we'd be willing to bet our souls that Arcade Fire's live show would breathe life into even the most stubborn Pinocchio.

2007_05_arcadefire02.JPGThe thing about an Arcade Fire live show is that every member of the band is giving it their all every second they are on the stage. Even the female string players, left with agonizing expanses of time before being called into action, resembled possessed marionettes in the throes of constant orgasm, and this sensual fury was redoubled back at them by the majority of the crowd.

(At this point we would usually make a denigrating statement about the band, in fear of appearing to be too enamored of anything so pedestrian as a group of humans banging on skins and strings and keys, but even the band's slow lull of songs mid-set, which sent lesser souls streaming toward the bowels of theater to empty their, um, bowels, could not dampen the intensity of their attack.)

The band tore through most of Neon Bible and touched upon most of Funeral's favorites, and they kept the crowd rapt through more than 90 minutes and three encores. If there was a letdown to be noticed, it was that the band didn't pop up "unannounced" in the lobby post-show, even though about 200 faithful stood there chanting the wordless intro of "Wake Up" until the security guards (oh so politely, we might add) ushered everyone out into the warm spring evening. In fact, the only regret we truly have is that we didn't procure tickets to Saturday and Sunday's shows as well, since Arcade Fire is a group that has earned our devotion in the sacred belief that rock music can still exist to amplify our deepest emotions in all the best ways.