Danceable left turn from Arcade Fire is nonetheless a knockout at United Center.

Third time through Chicago in 2017 is a contagious charm for Arcade Fire.

Leave it to Arcade Fire to juxtapose a boxing ring stage with a pair of giant disco balls to further illustrate its left turn from the epitome of indie rock to the dance floor at the United Center just a few months removed from headlining Lollapalooza. While the group’s fifth long player Everything Now already released prior to both shows, the satirical concept assessing society’s need for instant gratification and all the latest gadgets was fully realized in the round of the surprisingly not sold-out arena.

Perhaps it wasn’t far enough removed from the shows this summer (which also included an underplay at the Metro) or the mixed reviews surrounding the record to reach capacity, but those who could at least give the switch a chance were nonetheless rewarded with a knockout performance. (And anyone yet to hear the flip firsthand may want to picture a band like U2 jumping straight from The Joshua Tree to Pop, a fair comparison considering both acts have always echoed mutual appreciation for one another).

After catching nearly two hours of towering crescendos, gang choruses and anthems galore, the case could very well be made that Arcade Fire is shooting for the stadiums just like Bono and the boys, but with an entirely original and complex hybrid. From the very beginning, the troupe has always marched to the beat of its own drum, intermixing stomping folk, baroque pop and now the most overt electronic elements that sound like a love child between Beck and The Bee Gees (or Talking Heads with The Thompson Twins, depending on the tune).

Currently nine players deep on the Infinite Content Tour (who were all introduced as if they were duking it out for a heavyweight title), every inch of the square stage was packed with activity the entire time, especially during the explosive opening of “Everything Now,” “Signs Of Life” and “Rebellion (Lies).” Shortly thereafter, the ropes were removed, but that only gave husband/wife co-leads Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, along with anyone else who pleased, more room to repeatedly roam in the crowd, while the ceiling-to-floor vertical light beams were by far the most visually arresting of the group’s decade-plus career.

But more important than merely the brilliantly designed look were the songs themselves, which leaned heavily on Everything Now, but by no means neglected older tunes such as the revved-up “No Cars Go,” a sparsely reflective “Neon Bible,” the pleading “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and the thundering “Ready To Start.” Come the home stretch, the pulsating “Reflektor” and “Afterlife” were accompanied by a glitzy polish that resembled the vibe of Studio 54, while the bulldozing “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” was about as epic and aggressive as it gets (surely silencing any skeptics that may have remained).

The encore settled in with the much mellower “We Don’t Deserve Love” (accompanied by a row of empty wine bottles doubling as a xylophone), but the groove revved right back up with “Everything Now (Continued)” as the audience resumed losing their minds. And then came the ultimate chant-along “Wake Up” that had legs long after Arcade Fire left the stage and seemed to only support the message of avoiding all of today’s hype and rabid consumerism, but rather, pursue self-discovery and a genuine connection to community.

Those who turned up early also scored a lesson in alternative rock history when The Breeders revisited much of its ‘90s breakout project Last Splash, though the foursome never once came across dated throughout 40 meaningful minutes. Whether it was the runaway hit “Cannonball,” a cover of The Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” or a flashback to Kim Deal’s grungy Pixies days via “Gigantic,” these intermittent collaborators should seriously stay together and show the kids how to kill it.

Arcade Fire
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Event Date: 30-OCT-2017

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