Arcade Fire October 22, Mandalay Bay Events Center.
In the hours after the October 1 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, Arcade Fire singer Win Butler tweeted, “Hope our show at Mandalay Bay goes on as planned. Want to commune with the people in Vegas.” On Sunday night Butler and his bandmates fulfilled that wish, and man did they ever commune.
Arcade Fire’s third Las Vegas performance—and first here in six years—came at exactly the right time and took place in exactly the right building to achieve maximum impact. By the end of the night, the crowd had danced, cheered and, in some cases, cried itself to the point of exhaustion, rejoicing in the indie rockers’ rapturous music three weeks to the night of this town’s most horrific happening.
The show actually began in far more subdued fashion, as Angel Olsen and her five-piece backing band played a relatively somber set of alt-country tunes to a smallish audience. Though the North Carolina-based singer-songwriter’s voice sparkled, her set suffered from Arcade Fire’s concert-in-the-round logistics, which forced the opening act to one side of the stage, facing just a fraction of the crowd. Still, it was good hearing Olsen in Las Vegas; here’s hoping next time she’s in cozier environs, like the Bunkhouse or Brooklyn Bowl.
Arcade Fire ratcheted up the energy a million-fold, entering the arena like heavyweight fighters—through a corner door with a hype announcement blaring (collective weight: 2,100 pounds)—before squeezing through ropes encircling the stage like a boxing ring. “Everything Now” and “Signs of Life” off July album Everything Now led things off before throwback favorite “Rebellion (Lies)” hit the hyperspace button, taking the set to a elevated place it would inhabit for most of its two-hour runtime.
Butler and his eight bandmates took full advantage of their setup, shifting positions atop the tall stage as they traded instruments, ensuring everyone in the room got to experience each element of Arcade Fire’s frenetic live presentation. The night’s loose theme—reflecting that of Everything Now, a statement on modern consumerism—felt less successful, but that hardly mattered. The crowd was way too busy chanting along to “No Cars Go,” bouncing to “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and lighting up its cell phones to “Neon Bible” to care.
Even the songs off the up-and-down Everything Now seemed to shine brighter on this night: the sparkly, Régine Chassagne-sung “Electric Blue”; the disco-fied “Put Your Money on Me”; the sparse, if somewhat overlong ballad “We Don’t Deserve Love.”
And just when it seemed the band had hit its peak, it went higher still, delivering a trifecta of dare-you-not-to-dance numbers—“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” “Reflektor” and “Afterlife”—that more than justified the twin disco balls hanging from the ceiling and spinning like the bodies below them.
The night’s only semi-bummer? The low attendance, well short of filling even the significantly curtained-off area within the smallest of MGM Resorts’ three Strip arenas. Those who did show up witnessed one of the year’s absolute best Las Vegas performances, at the casino-resort most in need of positive vibes.
“We were really excited about playing here, because f*ck being afraid,” Butler announced part of the way through. “You’ve been through a lot of heavy sh*t, but there are good things on the other end.”