In many ways, Arcade Fire has become the biggest little band in the world. While many are unfamiliar with them, they have amassed a massive cult and critical following over the years. Their last album The Suburbs earned them a Grammy for Album of the Year and they have performed at some of the biggest venues and festivals in the world.
The band took the stage at Mekka nightclub as a part of a semi-secret tour where they played under the guise of the fictional band The Reflektors for six intimate performances in the U.S. promoting new material from their latest album Reflektor. The announcement of the two Miami shows surprised local fans as many independent bands skip South Florida on their tours, but during their performance the band said they considered Miami to be one of the three cultural capitals of the country (along with NYC and LA) and professed their love for the Little Haiti community which they called one of the most beautiful places in the country.
The band mandated that all attendees wear either formal attire or costume which nearly everyone obliged to, resulting in fans wearing everything from evening wear fit for a prom to every fruit costume imaginable. More surprisingly, nearly the entire crowd arrived on time for the 9 pm showtime (which rarely happens for a city that runs on Cuban time). The band arrived 30 minutes late but the crowd didn’t seem to mind as many had been waiting for years to see them perform. When mentioning it was their first Florida performance, they took a swipe at the rest of the state by saying “Miami is Florida” with the audience roaring in agreement.
Much of the new material Arcade Fire played at their performance showcased the band’s new sound, which recalls disco from the heyday of the 1970’s as well as dance rock from the early 2000’s (a sound that Reflektor producer James Murphy helped pioneer with his former band LCD Soundsystem).
They kicked off their set with a bang with “Reflektor,” a wildly infectious and unapologetically dance track that saw lead singer Win Butler energetically perform as his tall frame made contact with the disco balls on the roof. A superfan wearing a skeleton costume led the audience in a synchronized dance as the band played “We Exist”, a song that marries the iconic bassline from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” with angsty lyrics denouncing gossiping haters.
The evening reached peak disco with “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” an enormously lively ode to the mythical poet and musician that proves there’s no such thing as too much cowbell on a good dance song. But it was the quiet but towering presence of “Afterlife” that had the most impact in the show; the glistening, melancholic anthem poses the question “When love is gone, where does it go?” and is bound to become one of the band’s staples.
However, the tracks were not all disco revival. “Flashbulb Eyes” recalled reggae straight from the music halls of Jamaica while “Normal Person" and “Joan of Arc” straddled the line between punk and arena rock. The industrial "Supersymmetry" was the closest the band came to a ballad during the evening; lyrics discussing the pain of memory and loss echoed through the space as the sparse electronic backing ebbed with technologic angst.
The band did play a few tracks from their back catalog much to the delight of the audience. When the first chords of “Neighborhood #3 (Lights Out)” were played, the crowd went into a frenzy. “Sprawl II” from The Suburbs cast a spell over the audience as singer Régine Chassagne led the band through an affecting performance of the song, singing with tenderness about a yearning for nature as she danced with ribbons in her hands. They dedicated their encore “Haiti” from their debut album Funeral to the Haitian community which they said their album wouldn’t be possible without.
After the performance, the band invited the crowd to an afterparty where they promised to dance with their fans all night to their favorite songs. The crowd danced the night away with an inspired collection of songs that ranged from funk to deep house. It was the perfect nightcap to a stellar evening of music which will undoubtedly be remembered for many years to come.
Their performance at Mekka is the first and the more intimate of the two performances in Miami, the second of which will be played at the Little Haiti Cultural Center on Thursday, Oct. 24. The Little Haiti Cultural Center performance has particular significance as band member Régine Chassagne is the child of Haitian immigrants and their music has been often inspired by Haiti. Both concerts were sold out within minutes of tickets being available to the public. For a band that has sold out Madison Square Garden, the choice in venues comes as a surprise as the capacity for both events was just over 2,000. Both shows offered Miami fans to see the band in the smallest venues they'll play for many years (for the lucky few who scored tickets).
Arcade Fire performs at Mekka in Miami. Photo: Eric Kayne