One million concert going hopefuls lined up in the rain and cold with hopes of being granted access to see a truncated version of Arcade Fire play a free gig in support of democratic presidential candidate nominee hopeful – Barack Obama. Planned less than 48 hours ahead of time, short several members, and still jetlagged from their recent return from Japan, the Montreal band gladly jumped into their van and drove 14 hours to play several shows in the key election state of Ohio in support of B-rock. Ok. There weren’t really a million people there, but whatever. From the end of the line, in that dark and rainy parking lot, it certainly felt like a million people showed up. Whether the crowd was there in support of the cause, in support of the band, because it was free, or various combinations of all those reasons, I am not sure. I do know that those present were definitely in support of standing for change, dancing for change, singing for change and doing all kinds of festive activities for change in the name of Barack. Democrats sure know how to throw one hell of a party!
Two shows were played back to back, one a first come, first serve, free for all, the second a tad more organized ticketed affair organized by the Obama campaign. Both gigs began with brief opening numbers by Colin Stetson, a fine young gentleman who made some crazy sounds happen with a saxophone. Founding Arcade Fire member Win Butler personally introduced Stetson, promising the audience that Stetson could play the sax “better than Bill Clinton.” Not surprisingly, this turned out to be a true statement. The first audience was a bit unsure as to how to respond to such sounds, yet remained enthusiastic and appreciative towards his efforts none the less. Audience #2, at the later show, thought Stetson was pretty cool. To show their support, they clapped and chanted and danced and even did a little free style rapping as Colin laboriously poured what appeared to be his heart and soul out of his mouth and into his sax.
The early show opened with a cover of Bowie’s “Heroes,” and then led into “Intervention” off of 2007’s ‘Neon Bible,’ with Win Butler speaking out a bit about the 2004 election and how the song related to it. Just as Win was introducing the next song, a cover John Lennon’s “Gimmie Some Truth,” the oh so distinct scent of marijuana descended upon the crowd. At this point, someone screamed “Gimmie some weed!” Butler did not seem to be amused, and reminded the audience that they were not attending a green party rally. Funny man!! Songs from 2004’s ‘Funeral’ generated the most audience response, and “Wake Up” caused quite a ruckus. The brief set was concluded with an encore cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”
The second show of the night was mostly hosted by Will Butler, who came out ready and willing to put his nicely creased political pants into action, briefly and passionately addressing the crowd for several moments in support of the Obama groundswell. In general, the band seemed much more ferocious the second time around and throughout the set many a mic stand, megaphone, and guitar fell victim to the intense B-rocking with tambourines, guitars, violins, accordions, horns, and other assorted items that was going on. “Intervention” was the opener, followed by “Gimmie Some Truth” and a brief speech Kevin Griffis, an Obama spokesman/the guy who emailed The Arcade Fire and got them to come to Ohio and play for free. Yeah for Kevin!
“A Change is Gonna Come” was delivered a second time with a bit more passion involved, but only after Win politely encouraged the audience to stop talking and listen. A furious “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” got everyone thrashing about, with Win bringing the chaos to a fever pitch when he hopped off the stage with mic and guitar in hand and played the second half of the song from the middle of the crowd.
After the set was over, an incredibly adorable Regine Chassagne stopped doing that leering at the crowd thing she does, set her accordion down and issued high spirited high fives to audience members while Will Butler did some last minute Obama supporting. Even after the encore, the crowd kept cheering for another encore, only relenting as a sweaty and amiable Win set up shop at the Barack volunteer table in the lobby, giving hugs, firm handshakes, and Obama buttons to anyone who asked.