BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
It’s tough to decide what within Arcade Fire’s concert made it such a joyous affair.
Maybe it was the jumble of instruments crammed onto the square stage in the center of Infinite Energy Arena, a working area better suited to half of the nine members in their live setup, but a charming sight nonetheless.
Or perhaps it was the stellar arrangement of lasers and lights, which pulsed and flickered and swooped from the moment the band climbed into the boxing ring setup for the zippy title track from their new album, “Everything Now.”
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Another element adding to the relentless vibration in the room – the constant movement of band members, who swapped instruments as frequently as pop stars trade sequined costumes and bopped around numerous microphones stands to spend time on all sides of the stage.
Arcade Fire’s first show in Atlanta since their 2014 performance at Lakewood Amphitheatre reminded why nothing – streaming albums, Facebook Live videos, YouTube clips – can replace a live music experience.
For two hours on Thursday, the collective of Win and Will Butler, Win’s wife Régine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Jeremy Gara, Sarah Neufel and touring regulars Tiwill Duprate and Stuart Bogie zigzagged through their five-album career with unflagging energy.
Of course this “Infinite Content” tour, which rolled through Europe this summer and launched its U.S. leg last week in New York City, spotlights the new release with the sizzling double-punch dance-rock opener of “Everything Now” and “Signs of Life.”
Chassagne also placed her high-pitched vocals – sometimes muddled in the sound mix – over the insistent groove of “Electric Blue,” while Win Butler thrust his guitar upward by its neck while bellowing the “trumpets of angels call for my head” lyric in “Put Your Money on Me.”
The band tapped its 2004 debut nearly a dozen songs into their set with “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” which featured Chassagne swapping her keytar for the drum kit vacated by Gara, who moved to guitar, and Will Butler rotating from his keyboard to a tambourine.
The arena, which was about 2/3rds full (a mass of people opted for the general admission floor), lit up like a planetarium for “Neon Bible,” a soft song that tapered out with a mesmerizing chant. Another track from that 2007 album, “My Body is a Cage,” began with a gentle percussive thrust that built to a saxophone-filled roar as the band’s harmonies fluttered underneath Win Butler’s emotive vocals.
The de facto frontman plopped behind a keyboard and sent out love to “all of our friends and family in Houston, in Puerto Rico and in Mexico,” and called it a “crazy f****** time,” before unveiling the title track of their 2010 Grammy darling, “The Suburbs.”
Frantic lighting – including some from the exceptionally cool sliding lighting rigs that hovered over the crowd on the floor – augmented “Ready to Start,” as most of the band members bounced onstage to its driving beat.
Selections from 2013’s revered “Reflektor” album – the main title and “Afterlife” – appeared late in the main set, reminders of the diversity of Arcade Fire’s sound and the band’s nimbleness.
The Canadian band has always been impossible to pigeonhole musically, which makes their live presentation one of the most thrilling you’ll find.
Opening for Arcade Fire was fellow Montreal natives Wolf Parade.
The quartet, which returned last year after a five-year break, performed under dim, blue-tinted lights in a haze of dry ice. Their songs, from the discordant garage-rock of “You Are A Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” to the more melodic newcomer “You’re Dreaming” and sing-song guitar-fronted “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way),” aren’t groundbreaking, but perfectly listenable.
The band will release the new album “Cry, Cry, Cry” on Oct. 6 and offered a few sneak listens, including the stormy “Flies on the Sun” and “Valley Boy,” which offered echoes of David Bowie.