Friday, September 21, 2018

Arcade Fire and The Zombies thrill capacity crowd at the Greek Theatre

Arcade Fire singer-guitarist Win Butler reaching out during the
band's headlining performance at the Greek Theatre on Sept. 20.

Photo: Robert Kinsler
Two special things occurred to me while I was at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles last night (Sept. 20, 2018); I had just witnessed the Zombies performing in the largest venue I had ever seen the English band while at the same time I was equally lucky to see Arcade Fire perform in a decidedly more intimate setting than the previous two times I caught the Canadian troupe at Coachella.

This was not a night to arrive late. The Zombies kicked things off promptly at 7:15 p.m. The band was performing before a mix of fans who were obviously well acquainted with the outfit as well as those who were just being introduced to the group. It's safe to say everyone was a fan of the Zombies' by the end of the band's impressive and inspired 45-minute set.

Zombies singer Colin Blunstone at
Greek Theatre. Photo: Robert Kinsler
Opening with "I Love You," a song originally recorded by the group in summer 1965, singer Colin Blunstone immediately impressed with his soulful and high-reaching vocals. The song itself also provided a great introduction to the quintet's artful mix of rock, pop, jazz and blues that are all essential elements of its groundbreaking sound.

The setlist continued to provide one highlight after another, with the jazz-styled "I Want You Back Again" featuring Rod Argent delve into a delightful and extended piano solo displaying his virtuoso skills on the instrument. "Edge of the Rainbow" blended those jazz stylings with blues.

The Argent-penned hit "Tell Her No" came next, showcasing the musical might of the group's lineup (including the aforementioned Argent, Blunstone along with drummer Steve Rodford, lead guitarist Tom Toomey and new bassist-backing vocalist Søren Koch) and the group's timeless sound.

The Zombies performing at the Greek Theatre.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
The end of the Zombies' appearance provided the most magical moments, courtesy of a mini-set featuring songs from the Zombies' 1968 masterwork Odessey and Oracle, which received cheers when Argent noted via a short introduction that a mini-set from the album would be featured. Several faithful and affecting tracks from the classic album were featured, including the baroque-flavored "Care of Cell 44," haunting and sparse "A Rose for Emily" (with only Argent, Blunstone and Koch on stage), the majestic and uptempo "This Will Be Our Year" and riveting "Time of the Season." 

The Zombies ended their fast-moving turn with a potent and rocking take on their 1964 hit "She's Not There," highlighted by
The Zombies acknowledging the love on Sept. 20.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
Blunstone's signature vocals and a great instrumental duel between Argent's keyboard playing and Toomey's deft fret work before Koch and Rodford were featured in a dynamic bass-drum instrumental jam section together. 

It was great to see the Zombies' receive a well-deserved big time ovation from the Greek Theatre crowd (Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler would later note "We're so honored to be playing with The Zombies" during his band's set).

Arcade Fire is one of the most original and successful alternative rock artists to emerge since the turn of the century. So it's no wonder the concert on Thursday night was an absolute sold-out affair. The energetic Montreal-spawned collective fully delivered on its talents during an intoxicating two-hour set. Divided into two parts, the concert offered up standout material from throughout the band's career.

Arcade Fire at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on Sept. 20,
2018. Photo: Robert Kinsler
A band whose live concerts draws comparisons with the golden age of Bruce Springsteen and U2 live outings, Arcade Fire is one of those rare live acts whose fusion of song craft and performance art makes concerts a spiritual experience. I had wondered if that palpable feeling I had experienced with the band at Coachella would translate here in Los Angeles; it did. From the time the six-member group (assisted by three additional touring musicians) took the stage there was the organized and glorious chaos that is Arcade Fire - a strong stream of musicians exchanging instruments, joining in big sing-alongs and enticing the audience to have the time of their life all while lost in the power of music.

Arcade Fire launched the night performing their 2004 debut album Funeral in its entirety, with Butler later saying "We wanted to play our first record while we fit in the clothes." The performance of the album was epic, mostly filling the first half of the set.

Shared lead vocals from Butler and his wife Régine Alexandra Chassagne have always given the band a more interesting dynamic and that proved true this night. And the mix of band members playing everything from xylophone, piano, percussion, woodwinds and strings meant the sonic tapestry here far outdistanced the more conventional approach of so many of Arcade Fire's contemporary rock acts. 

Highlights? Everywhere. Beyond the potent full-length 50-minute performance of Funeral, there was a second act that included the disco delights of "Reflektor" and "Afterlife."

Butler's voice soared into falsetto during the inviting "Put Your Money On Me," one of several compelling cuts from Arcade Fire's latest album (2017's Everything Now). The catchy "Creature Comfort" and brash "Electric Blue" also came off more powerfully in concert then on the original studio recording.

The crowd was on its feet for much of the night and that made moving with the music much easier. A good idea since bona fide classics like the wistful "The Suburbs," explosive "Ready to Start," shimmering "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" and triumphant "Everything Now" were offered up with joyous fanfare.

A magical night to be sure.

Review by Robert Kinsler

Rod Argent performing at the Greek Theatre.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift

The Zombies Setlist
1. I Love You
2. I Want You Back Again
3. Moving On
4. Edge of the Rainbow
5. Tell Her No
(Odyssey and Oracle mini-set) 
6. Care of Cell 44
7. A Rose for Emily
8. This Will Be Our Year
9. Time of the Season
10. She's Not There

Arcade Fire Setlist
1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
2. Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
3. Une Année Sans Lumiere
Arcade Fire performing at the legendary Greek Theatre on
Sept. 20, 2018. Photo: Robert Kinsler
4.  Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
5. Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
6. Crown of Love
7. Wake Up
8. Haiti
9. Rebellion (Lies)
10. In the Backseat (Tour debut performance)
2nd Set
11. Reflektor
12. Afterlife (with New Order's "Temptation" snippet as outdo)
13. Creature Comfort
14. Electric Blue
15. Put Your Money on Me
16. Intervention
17. My Body is a Cage
18. The Suburbs
19. Ready to Start
20. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
21. Everything Now

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