TORONTO - Montreal's Arcade Fire, the most-hyped indie rock darlings since Broken Social Scene, had no trouble living up to all the hype at the Music Hall Theatre Tuesday night.
It's no surprise that last night's Arcade Fire show, the first of three sold-out Toronto gigs, was a schmoozy who's who of the local indie rock scene. The shows have been stirring up a buzz for months.
A recent Time cover story hailed them as "Canada's most intriguing rock band." Spin lauded them for helping to make Montreal home base for "the next big scene." Critics enthusiastically included Funeral, their debut full-length album released last fall, on their best of 2004 lists.
The group -- a total of nine, including a couple of guest performers from opening band Wolf Parade -- kicked off the set powerfully and dramatically with their customary crowd-pleasing opener, Wake Up.
With all members, mic'ed or not, unapologetically belting out both the lyrics and the song's wordless beginning, it was clear right off the top that this shaggy crew had a mesmerizing onstage presence.
The set included material mostly from Funeral, except for a few that included the folky Cars & Telephones (a four-year-old demo track), a chilling cover of Brazil (from the Terry Gilliam film) and a crowd-pleasing, high-energy performance of No Cars Go (from their 2003 self-released EP demo).
The Funeral songs were better received by the nearly 1,300 fans. A flawless performance of the Modest Mouse-esque Power Out, the band's current single, an infectiously energetic and powerful Crown Of Love and a frenzied and noisy Rebellion roused the subdued audience the most.
The main symbolic elements of the record -- the romance of the two lead singers Regine and Win's 2004 wedding and the sadness of the four family deaths the band suffered during the album's writing and recording -- were ever-present.
Swapping intruments at any opportunity (everything from guitars and keyboards to an accordian and a glockenspiel), the group kept the audience entertained.
During the encores, the drawn-out rendition of lead singer Win Butler's "favourite Talking Heads song," This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) threatened overkill, but overall the pop-rock collective kept a frenzied pace, varied arrangements and constant crescendos.
There were highlights among the encores, including a seemingly impromptu and uncharacteristically guarded performance of what Butler would only refer to as "the new song." During another encore, the group sang and pounded their instruments while wandering through the surprised audience like a marching band -- off the stage, up to the balcony, back down again and out the door with a magnificent exit.
The best part of the show? When Regine announced that all the profits from the Montreal and Toronto shows will be donated to a needy hospital in Haiti where she was born.
Evidently, all that hype failed to make spoiled rock stars out of this bunch.