Monday, August 16, 2010

Arcade Fire Hits Number One! Big F*ing Deal!

Can we stop talking about Arcade Fire’s number one chart entry now?


I’m glad at the achievement and am impressed by the numbers for the first week and all, but if people really believe that this is going to translate into superstar figures then they need to only wait to see the chart entries from this week.

It’s pretty obvious that sales charts for recorded music albums is pretty irrelevant, and that high chart entries is nothing more than a chance to have about a weeks worth of bragging rites.

After all, for anemic weekly sales totals of 5,000 can more than likely get your band an entry into the top 50. It’s a sign that people no longer give a shit about albums-a point which breaks my heart, to be honest-and that the long player format is turning into a relic, a victim of record label greed and of artists inability to compile 30-40 minutes of worthy material-or to sag 30-40 minutes of decent material with 20-30 minutes of additional garbage.

For me, the big story of Arcade Fire’s week (aside from the actual music, of course) is their ability to sell out a pair of shows at Madison Square Garden. The performance was shown on the web (directed by none other than Terry Gilliam) and it also showed a very competent band that was able to transition from the theatre to the arena.

It seems that none of the spectacle-the grandiose build-ups and team-sized membership-is lost on the large stage. The vast space of the arena appears to be nicely suited to the band as early as their last tour would set up shop in the foyer of their theatre shows to play exit music for the leaving patrons.

Those gigs, it seems, will now be mentioned with the same affection of The Police’s first club tour of the U.S., the Velvet Underground’s Plastic Inevitable performances with Warhol, or maybe Springsteen’s first club tour of the U.S.

Because behind the hurdy-gurdy, the precocious heartbreak of Win Butler‘s emotional frailty, and the continuous dramatical dynamics lies a band that appears to know the playbook front to back. Their perceived ignorance of the spotlight and even Merge’s aw shucks act at not thinking too much about sales tally is just as contrived as smashing an acoustic guitar on Saturday Night Live.

My guess is that Win and the gang were looking more at Springsteen’s work at bringing up the E-Street Band from the bars to the arena than we give them credit for.

And you know what? More power to them!

Because we need to start feeding the arenas of the future with bands that can actually pull it off.

Think about it: besides Radiohead and the Dave Matthews Band, who else will there be packing those huge open spaces?

Don’t give me that “arena shows suck” bullshit; that elitism won’t fly and if you’ve never been awestruck by the shear communal bonding of an awesome arena show then you really need to get off of the computer right now and get out into the real world more often.

Or talk to your counselor about your debilitating fear of people.

I hate people, crowds, douchebags, and shitty concerts as much as the next guy, but when it all goes right, there’s a sense of community bonding that simply transcends nearly everything else. There is no politics, work-related bullshit, problems with the significant other, money woes-it’s all about the love of the music And when the music contributes its part, all of that other garbage goes by the wayside for at least an hour-and-a-half.

Sure, you can feel similar feelings at a club or theatre show, but there’s something about looking at a crowd of 10,000 people and thinking, “Holy fuck, we’re all in this thing together!”

I’ve been to enough shows now that I don’t think I’d be able to put a list together that does justice to all of the great bands that I’ve seen live. What I would need to do is separate them, from clubs, to theatres, to arenas, and then the list would be fair.

Based on that, I would easily put Springsteen in the top ten, and I’ve seen him with both the E-Street Band and without. There was no fancy light show or choreographed routines; just straight up rock music performed by a guy who seemed to understand that many people in the crowd paid a big sum of cash to get in the door.

He spoke to the crowd on their level, with jokes and the occasional self-deprivating comments. From what I heard, Win Butler used similar strategies at Madison Square Garden, joking about a Hakeem Olajuwon blocking a shot of John Starks in the Garden from ’94, prompting a chorus of boos from the Knickerbockers faithful.

We already knew that the Arcade Fire was proficient enough to sell records-both Funeral and Neon Bible are at or close to gold status in this age of shitty record sales. So the notion that the band was already going to have a high charting album was old news.
The real story was is how Arcade Fire had translated that success into an arena sized show that worked and paved the way for other bands to follow suit.

Because any band can make the charts nowadays. But it takes a special one to put asses in the seats.

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