Arcade Fire as the Reflektors
Little Haiti Cultural Center, Miami
Presented by Rhythm Foundation
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Better Than: A Reflektor-less existence.
"We couldn't have made this record without Haiti."
On two consecutive nights, Arcade Fire's Win Butler confided this same thing to Miami crowds. His band's new album, Reflektor, would not have existed, except for the effervescent creative energy that he, wife and fellow co-founder Régine Chassagne, and the five other permanent members derived from that tiny half-island known in Kreyol as la Repiblik d'Ayiti.
And last night, almost exactly 24 hours after Win, Régine, and Arcade Fire (figuratively) burned down Mekka Nightclub in downtown Miami, they made a pilgrammage to Little Haiti, the closest outpost of la perle des antilles.
It was -- compared to the previous frenzied evening -- a nice, slow smolder.
In the months leading up to the release of Reflektor, Win and Régine and the others have often namedropped their fave Caribbean country.
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The band has pinpointed its 2011 and '12 trips to Haiti as the overriding inspiration for the title track, not to mention the rest of the record. And during an interview last month with the BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe, Butler described the new album as "a mash up of Studio 54 and Haitian voodoo."
Then on Wednesday at Mekka in Miami, the Arcade Fire frontman gushed over our city's small slice of the homeland. "I'm so jealous that you have Little Haiti," he said. "It's one of the most beautiful places in America."
And poof! The next night, Win and Régine and the others were there, clapping along to the Haitian rara band and drinking Prestige beer with us.
Of course, it'd been known for about a week and a half that Arcade Fire would be playing the Little Haiti Cultural Center as part of the Reflektor buildup that Butler had dubbed "a weird art project."
We here at Crossfade originally asked, cautiously, after learning that so-maybe-this-is-sorta-gonna-happen: "Who Are the Reflektors? Is Arcade Fire Playing Miami in Little Haiti on October 24?"
But yes, most definitely, the Reflektors arrived at NE Second Avenue and 59th Terrace, exactly as oh-so-mysteriously advertised.
Or maybe more accurately, Win materialized in the middle of the crowd about an hour (7:58 p.m.) before the scheduled showtime. And like a true Reflektor, he wore a mirrored mask, possibly expecting to go unnoticed while wandering among the rabble.
But c'mon ... Dude is six foot, five inches tall with a shock of obviously Butler-esque hair springing out from behind his face-shield. And so, he was quickly spotted and identified, then forced to gamely oblige the fans with one-on-one robot dances and visage-less photo ops.
Even early in the evening, this was obviously a Little Haiti block party, just like the Big Night that happens every third Friday of the month. Except, uh, well, y'know, the hugest rock band on the planet was waiting in the wings to play roughly 76 minutes of (almost) entirely new music.
There were all kinds of weird, overexcited characters running 'round. Human-size Day of the Dead dolls. Cows with faces from Outer Space. Commedia dell'arte dorks. Abe Lincoln look-alikes. And escaped federal prisoners who hadn't shed their orange jumpsuits.
The palm trees swayed in the Hurricane-season breeze, their trunks wrapped in Christmas lights. And the undead, aliens, and escapees alike snacked on empanadas, sipping on Rhum Barbancourt and Coke.
And then Arcade Fire crept out onto a dark stage, jamming on the pans and bongos.
As of yesterday afternoon, there had been three live concerts performed by "the Reflektors," this meta-band that looks a whole hell of a lot like Arcade Fire. And so far, all of the shows -- two in Brooklyn and one in Miami -- have followed the same basic script.
Last night's Little Haiti gig was no different. But that definitely isn't a bad thing. Especially because when Arcade Fire -- er, we mean the Reflektors -- rip into that opening song, "Reflektor," the entire audience screams like a pack of werewolves in flames.
Actually, after the now-customary second cut, "Flashbulb Eyes," Régine greeted the crowd: "Good evening! Bonsoir! Miami!" And the fans lustily howled again.
"Wow," Win smirked. "These are our first shows in Miami. And I gotta say, I don't know what's taken us so long."
All together, the thousands of costumed fanatics threw their hands up, inviting the band back as soon as effing possible. The Arcade Fire crew members smiled as if they had a secret. And under a saturated black Miami sky, Butler and band snaked and shimmied through another three tracks off the new album: "We Exist," "Normal Person," and "You Already Know."
"We're called the Reflektors," Butler said. "Thank you for being so kind to us."
Halfway through the show and feeling extra-groovy, Win, Régine, and the rest of the gang led the guys and girls of the crowd in a call-and-response sing-along to "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)," instructing, "Over here and then there ... It's never over, it's never over, it's never over, it's never over, it's never over, it's never over."
And keepin' their meta-band act intact (while still shouting out their longtime allies in Haiti), Butler and band introduced "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" off 2011's The Suburbs as "this song is by Arcade Fire."
"It's based on a book," Win said, "about a guy named Paul Farmer who went to Haiti, where he's trying to change things. He runs Partners in Health.
"We need," he implored the crowd, "to support them."
Meanwhile, as the band floated into "Supersymmetry," stalked through "Afterlife,"
and ran out into the night of "Neighborhood #3 (Lights Out)," Little Haiti's weird, overexcited characters began to be inspired to do crazier things than simply supporting social justice and communal welfare.
A few near-fights broke out before ending in hugs. One guy got so stoked on the warm, island vibes that he instantaneously began giggling and high-fived a bearded, Prestige beer-drinking Jesus. Another dude climbed a 12-foot wall, like a human arachnid, to get a better look at Butler and the band.
"We are unfortunately running out of time," Win told these frenzied fanatics, who awww-ed in gentle disappointment. "So if you've been holding back, this is the moment to let you know that we're gonna dance now."
And so, we'd already reached the last song, "Here Comes the Night Time," a rara strut that builds and builds and builds and eventually explodes into an arm-flailing, foot-stomping Haitian voodoo frenzy.
"Yeah, heaven's a place, it's behind the gate," Butler chanted, improvising protest lyrics against the plight of Haitians fleeing their country on rafts and boats, only to be rejected by America.
"They won't let you in, they'll send you to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, particularly if your boat seems to be coming from Port-au-Prince, Haiti."
Waving and shouting, "Gracias! Thank you! Mesi!" the band left the stage, slipping into the shadows as "Night Time" burned out and faded to silence.
Of course, as they'd done on Wednesday night, as well as last week in Brooklyn, Win and Régine and the rest returned for an encore, one last song, that ode of love to their fave Caribbean country -- "Haiti."
"We believe in Haiti. We believe it can come back. We believe that we can build it up together," Butler hollered, urging us all.
"Thank you so much. We'll be back soon."
Arcade Fire's Setlist:
-"You Already Know"
-"It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)"
-"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
-"Neighborhood #3 (LIghts Out)"
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-"Here Comes the Night Time"