I once drove for five hours to see Arcade Fire. The year was 2013, and it was October 24, the same day the band released its album Reflektor for streaming, accompanied by visuals from the 1959 film Black Orpheus. As an overeager sophomore attending college in North Florida, I was more than happy to brave the perils of I-95 southbound if it meant grooving alongside Win Butler and company to their funkiest release yet. And Reflektor was everything then, a potent combination of the band’s introspective lyricism — in this particular instance, a reflection on the hazards of pervasive technology and the havoc they can wreak on relationships, all filtered through the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard — and producer James Murphy’s love of post-punk and disco, all unfolding under the watchful eye of album guest David Bowie.
As New Times reported at the time, the show was wonderful. Held at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, the band performed to a gaggle of costumed Miami freaks, working up a collective sweat that was soothed only by an uncharacteristically chilly tropical breeze. The show — only the band's second in Miami — was every bit as fun as "a mashup of Studio 54 and Haitian voodoo" could possibly be.
Then it was over. Despite a verbal promise to return to the city for the Reflektor tour proper, Arcade Fire never made it back to Miami’s shores.
Until last night. Making good on a four-year-old promise, the band performed to a vibrant crowd at the University of Miami’s Watsco Center on a tour stop promoting their latest album, July’s Everything Now.
If any Miamians were still salty about the wait, they didn’t show it. As the band kicked things off with the title track to Everything Now, the arena burst to life. The crowd was happy to not only see one of indie rock’s greatest touring acts, but to do so in such an intimate fashion. As mentioned by band member Tim Kingsbury in an interview with New Times, Arcade Fire is performing the Infinite Content tour in-the-round, bringing the bandmates closer to audiences than they’ve been for some time.
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But for as intimate as the show felt, the band still put on a spectacle. Accompanied by visuals from the fictional Everything Now Corp, sandwiched between two disco balls and enveloped in technicolor lights, Arcade Fire gave the crowd a set that equally paid tribute to the band's past while embracing its present, playing roughly two-thirds of Everything Now alongside cuts from across their discography.
Following an early highlight with the one-two punch of “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Here Comes the Night Time,” the band paused to cede the stage to Christina Ponthieux, a student at Miami Shores Elementary School. Greeted with rapturous applause, Ponthieux spoke about the Trump administration’s reluctance to extend the timeline for Haitians residing in the United States under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). If the Department of Homeland Security does not extend TPS past its January 22 deadline, many Haitians who have gained meaningful employment in the United States will be deported.
Asking “Will you fight for us?” Ponthieux encouraged attendees to rally for TPS any way they could, as well as contribute to local initiatives such as Haitian Women of Miami.
The band then launched into Funeral standout “Haïti,” the end of which saw co-lead vocalist Régine Chassange unfurl Haiti’s national flag while flanked by two female Haitian dancers. After apologizing for taking the better part of their career to play a full-fledged show in the city, lead singer Win Butler took the time to note that “Miami is everything great about America,” commenting on the city's diverse population and accompanying cultural variety.
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With the exception of the Bush-era lament “Neon Bible,” the remainder of the evening was decidedly apolitical, offering a fleeting respite from the stupidity and wanton cruelty dominating our news cycle. The arena was welcomingly awash in smiles and impromptu group dances, a fact acknowledged by the band when Chassange joined the audience to groove during “Reflektor.”
Even songs that aren’t particularly thought of as danceable warranted widespread shuffling. Following a smoke-drenched, intense performance of Everything Now single “Creature Comfort,” the band closed its initial set with a furious rendition of “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out).”
Returning to “We Don’t Deserve Love,” Arcade Fire closed with a requisite but stirring performance of “Wake Up,” the track that would launch a million millennial whoops.
This time around, my trek to the venue took only 30 minutes. But if I had to, I would’ve made that five-hour drive ten times over.