It's a Big Win

Win Butler acknowledges his home: Arcade Fire tells true tales of Texas inspiration in The Woodlands

Win Butler acknowledges his home: Arcade Fire tells true tales of Texas inspiration in The Woodlands

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It's good to have you back in The Woodlands, Win. Photo by Fayza A. Elmostehi
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Régine Chassagne in one of her many roles throughout the evening. Photo by Fayza A. Elmostehi
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Sing it, Win. Photo by Fayza A. Elmostehi
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Régine can do it all. Photo by Fayza A. Elmostehi
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"I used to work at the Pavilion as a ticket taker," said Butler. "I was wondering if you needed anything while I was up." Photo by Fayza A. Elmostehi
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Yes, Win. We're listening. Photo by Fayza A. Elmostehi
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Photo by Fayza A. Elmostehi
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News_Arcade Fire_concert_May 2011
News_Arcade Fire_concert_May 2011
News_Arcade Fire_concert_May 2011

Few homecomings have ever been so highly anticipated as the return of The Woodlands' pseudo-prodigal son, Win Butler, of the brilliant indie rock band Arcade Fire.

The legitmacy of all residency claims aside, Houston's been in a tizzy as of late over the band's entire album being a loose tribute to Butler's suburban Texas roots. With the masterpiece about the suburbs earning the band major musical clout — the Album of the Year Grammy — we were left wondering when we were going to get a Win, too.

And yet, as Arcade Fire's touring schedule raged onward, there was still no big Win in sight for the Houston metropolitan area.

On Wednesday night, that all changed. Win finally came home to The Woodlands.

"I'll make you a deal," Butler proposed to the audience. "We'll play our fucking asses off, and you meet us right here," he said, gesturing to an imaginary halfway point between the stage and the crowd.

Over 90 minutes later, we can assure you that Arcade Fire kept its end of the bargain. And the fans in Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion met the challenge.

If you expect an Arcade Fire show to be a rote reiteration of its recorded hits, you wouldn't be an Arcade Fire fan in the first place. You have a bit of an idea of what you're getting into when you see a stage virtually stuffed with instruments — microphones, guitars, drum sets, an organ, a piano, a cello, an accordion, maracas, tambourines, and violins, among many others — and the eight performers that would pluck, strum, beat, caress, and shake them take their first collective breath.

But how ready are you to be completely overtaken by the music? Because an Arcade Fire show is nothing if not 100 percent of you, too. The band's aggressive stance on stage suggests one thing, and one thing only — get on board with us. Now.

It's not a question. It's a statement. "We're taking you with us; you're going where we go." You're captive. You're coming.

Perhaps this is the reason Cynthia Woods didn't make the lawn available to the show. Because to say the performance was intimate would be to trivialize the atmosphere Win, his spitfire wife Régine Chassagne, his supercharged brother William, and their motley crew of superior musicians had created for us.

What they did up in The Woodlands on Wednesday night went far beyond the reach of any band before them — and will most likely fail duplication by others that follow them. Arcade Fire sought you out, wriggled inside each and every one of us, and Arcade Fire connected.

The band was able to create an experience so personal, so internal, so deeply rooted, it bordered on the edge of holy.

The real victory was that Arcade Fire's genuineness to the cause of completely enveloping us in the music's folds never wavered, even when we knew they might be pandering to us.

After opening the show with "Ready to Start," Win breathlessly exhaled into the microphone, "Good evening, Woodlands, Texas. It's good to be home."

We know he sensed our almost unhealthy desire to hear him utter those words, and yet, it never felt like he didn't mean them. 

And we know Canadian-born Régine's sassy, Prohibition Era sparkler wasn't necessarily the best getup for showcasing her inner Texan-by-matrimony. Yet her floral-speckled cowboy boots were meant to satisfy that innate locality in us. She knew it, and we knew it. We're Texans, Arcade Fire, and now we're confident in the fact that so are you.

Arcade Fire knew that these details mattered to us. And in so many chewable, palpable ways, this band brought the beauty of a true rock show back to life.

Par for the well-rounded course in the Arcade Fire repertoire also included pulling yourself up by the guitar straps and pitching in where needed. William, can you play a guitar? OK, next song, you'll hand off the drum while you strum. Régine, can you sing? OK, Win will head back to the piano while you take center stage.

It doesn't matter how many times Régine swapped that accordion for the tambourine. The fans don't miss a beat, either.

For a band it's been said that no one knows, you certainly would've thought it was karaoke night at Cynthia Woods.

And then you began to understand that the united voices of the crowd in enthusiastic sing-along mode was the instrumental linchpin in the arsenal.

Because without us, you wouldn't see Win's face light up with glee as he leaned out into the pit. Without us, you wouldn't see Régine's seductively sweet ribbon dancing. Without us, you wouldn't see William banging uncontrollably on a snare while he flailed across the stage.

We needed them in order to complete the heartbeat. And Arcade Fire needed us, too.

It's what made us hope in another round of aching desperation that this homecoming was worth it for Win. From revisiting old paycheck providers — "I used to work at the Pavilion as a ticket taker" — to toeing the annals of personal history — "This song ["Sprawl I"] is about taking a trip to The Woodlands and getting pulled over by a cop" — our bonds with this band were galvanized as the night progressed.

In the course of a mere hour and a half, Arcade Fire went from a meteorically talented band to a bunch of really cool folks with some pretty tangible Texas ties.

The performance felt too short, although that couldn't be further from the truth. We wanted to hang on to the world we'd created, that small slice of simple synergy. But with the same modest bravado with which they took the stage, and with a wave and a toss of the microphone to some lucky bastard, the night ended as quietly as it began.

But the void was filled; the longing over. We'd finally gotten our big Win.

* * *

Setlist

  1. Ready to Start
  2. Keep the Car Running
  3. Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
  4. City With No Children
  5. Rococo
  6. Sprawl I (Flatland)
  7. Haiti
  8. Intervention
  9. The Suburbs
  10. Month of May
  11. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
  12. No Cars Go
  13. We Used to Wait
  14. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
  15. Rebellion (Lies)

Encore

  1. Wake Up
  2. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
     
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