Arcade Fire arrived at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night with a chip on their shoulders.
After opening sets from Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Grandmaster Flash, The Garden’s video screens played infomercial-style advertisements for faux merchandise like Creature Comfort cereal and Electric Blue eye drops (both nods to songs off the band’s latest record). Every so often, a video of an over-the-top cartoon cowboy — with his face psychedelically obscured by an outer space scene — would interrupt the ads to hype up the crowd.
These hokey flourishes were an extension of Arcade Fire’s tongue-in-cheek rollout for “Everything Now,” their latest album that dropped in July. Critics haven’t been kind to the record, new territory for one of the most consistently acclaimed bands of the 21st century. For the first time in a long time, it felt as if Arcade Fire had something to prove.
So it was fitting that the stage, which was in the center of the crowd, resembled a boxing ring. As Arcade Fire entered, decked out in matching starter jackets, a PA announcer proclaimed them “the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champions of the world.”
The band launched right into “Everything Now,” the polarizing disco single and title track off the new record. Rather than facing in one direction, members of the sprawling band spread out around the ring for a true “theater-in-the-round” performance as frontman Win Butler stood in the center on a rotating platform. “Signs of Life,” another new song, followed, accentuated by the two massive disco balls that flanked the stage.
But it wasn’t long before the band diverted from the new stuff, delivering a gut-wrenching “Rebellion (Lies)” off their debut album Funeral. While Arcade Fire has creatively extended itself to incorporate electronic, worldbeat and disco, they began in earnest as a…