A #MeToo affair, how do you deal with that as a pop group with an image that has hitherto been characterized by an atmosphere of holiness and community? Arcade Fire is silent during the current European tour. The 71 crew members of the Canadian band are working hard to bring the bombastic show to the big halls, even though the Ziggo Dome was only half full on Wednesday. The top ring remained closed and there were large holes below it. Organizer Mojo does not announce ticket sales.
That got a big blow on August 27 when the authoritative music website Pitchfork published an article about the alleged transgressive behavior of Arcade Fire singer Win Butler. Four people accuse the 42-year-old pop star of sexual misconduct in the years 2016-2020, ranging from unwanted touching and sending explicit text and image messages to pursuing relationships with much younger fans.
Butler did not deny, but engaged a publicity agency to disclose that sexual contacts with 18- to 23-year-olds had been consensual, he said. He apologized for his behavior and promised his nine-year-old son that he will make amends. Wife Régine Chassagne, musician and singer in the band, rallied behind her husband and said soothingly: “He lost his way and found it again.”
Also read: Feist withdraws from tour with Arcade Fire over sexual misconduct allegations
Cacophony of sound
Under those circumstances Arcade Fire gave a loaded concert in the sparsely populated Ziggo Dome, starting with the desperate ‘Age of Anxiety’ from the latest album WE. “It’s the age of doubt,” Butler began his litany of the confusing world we live in, accompanied by roaring bass and a cacophony of sound that barely caught breath for the next hour and a half. Arcade Fire sounded louder, fuller and often faster than the band has sounded in its twentieth anniversary.
With a cross section from the six albums, Arcade Fire looked for the building blocks that made the music ‘bigger than life’. Gone were the subtle folk elements of the early work; gone was the ability to start small and slowly build the songs into something bigger. Arcade Fire went all out with the shrill vocals of Régine Chassange in ‘Black Wave/Bad Vibrations’, the fat disco beat of ‘Reflektor’ and a pompous ‘The Lightning I’ from the new album in which the accordion plays a meaningless, completely snow-covered addition.
Early on, Win Butler jumped into the crowd to sing ‘The Afterlife’ close to the fans, en route to a small stage in the center where Régine Chassagne then danced lavishly under the disco ball. Later on, the entire band played a relatively subtle finale on that center stage after all the decibel violence. Butler dedicated The Suburbs to David Bowie, who taught him, “It’s cool to be a fucking weirdo.”
Prior to ‘Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)’, Win Butler gave the only indication that the #MeToo affair has not left him untouched: “This is for everyone with imperfect parents.” Arcade Fire overplayed itself at a time when some restraint was in order.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of September 30, 2022