From the very first try, the ticket sales website said, "Sorry, nothing matches your search criteria." As I repeatedly got the "sorry..." message I was cursing the bastards who had pre-ordered the album and been allowed to pre-buy the concert tickets the day before. Then the light bulb in my head went off and I thought, "why not try the telephone and see if any tickets have been siphoned off for phone sales." That's what I did before I had the laptop, and nobody uses the phone anymore. Eureka! Within three minutes I had my ticket.
I have to say, on the first listening, Reflektor wasn't what I expected. As one dance song followed another, and another, I wondered if some variety had been lost. Then the second disk sounded unlike the first disk with a variety of styles that struck me as odd. This all is to illustrate how WRONG first impressions can be. Over the next two days some of the songs really began to get a grip on me and I soon found myself really admiring the thunderous production values.
It didn't take long for the mob of costumed concertgoers to close in behind me. Goblins, ghouls, the walking dead, dandies, hookers and a lot sporting as many reflective surfaces as they could sew onto their jackets and dresses. Many people simply wore CDs all over their clothes. Production people circulated among us and picked out some of the most reflective costumes to pull out of the line for some other purpose.
paper mache heads used in the "Reflektor" video began dancing at the head of the line as a camera crew filmed the entire thing (with our friends in the reflective costumes used as a backdrop). I'm assuming that it was indeed Arcade Fire who were wearing the masks and dancing to the Mariachis. While I can't confirm that, here is a picture (above) from where I was standing.
Blasting into the title tune from the new album, the whole room seemed to move as one giant undulating organism to the hypnotic dance beat. For once, the bass-heavy sound in the Palladium was perfectly suited to the music coming from the stage. The intoxicating thump of that song coupled with the anthem-like refrains and wall-of-sound orchestrations got the room into a frenzied high right off the bat. From that moment on no one was able to resist and we rose collectively off the floor, not to return for an hour and a half.
Next, without taking a breath, they dipped back into their repertoire for the first of only a handful of older songs they included in the set to blast us with a thunderingly aggressive version of "Neighborhood # 3 (Lights Out)". After the audience shouted out the lyrics along with the band, I was thrilled that they returned to the new songs for the bulk of the night, leaving the sing-a-long crowd stranded and forced to listen.
"Flashbulb Eyes" brought the tempo down a little as it qualifies as one of the albums less bombastic songs dipping into reggae territory and featuring twangy '60s surf guitars. It was a temporary respite as they then played a series of progressively more elaborately orchestrated songs that had the audience in a state of ever more collective euphoria.
I was enjoying the hell out of the show from where I was on the floor, but, truth be told, when you're buried in the middle of a huge crowd like this one at The Palladium you're lucky to catch occasional glimpses of the tops of the musicians heads. The venue might be better off with a more graded floor or a higher stage. So I decided to wander for the rest of the show and catch it from all different angles.
I am confused by reviewers who say "it's just dance music." We'll, excuse me, but Arcade Fire has always been a dance band. Thank God everyone stood up for the two Shrine shows two years ago, because I would never been able to stay in my seat. The teaming up of the band with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem to produce the new album, pushed the band to explore a wider variety of dance oriented music that they have before and the result is an album full of surprises, including some that take some time to get used to. But the effort is well worth it as you'll discover one of the year's best albums.
Coming back on stage from a short break they performed two audience favorites as encores (and two of heir best songs) to finish off this incredible night and give Regine the chance to overwhelm us with her lead vocals. First "Haiti", for which she wore two giant pink foam gloves so that, even at the back of the room (where I was by now), everyone could enjoy her wonderfully evocative hand movements, which, to me, have always been a highlight of their shows.
And they save one of the best for last, "Sprawl II" from The Suburbs, which was such a stand out on their last tour, and it was again here. Regine even picked up the colored streamers she always used to accentuate her dancing and prancing all over the stage, taking command and holding the audience in the palm of her hand. I was like putty. We all were. It was a supreme ending to a superb show.
Limp from exhaustion and exaltation, we all tumbled out of Hollywood Palladium onto the ghoul, witch and Halloween crowded streets of Hollywood itself. The whole world seemed suspended in a weird time-warp, where the environment inside the concert hall and the environment outside on the streets were one in the same. After a night like this I wonder, "Is there anywhere better to be?" It took more than a few days to come back down to Earth.