Sort Of A Homecoming
Yes, we're all excited that Arcade Fire is playing the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Wednesday night. And, yes, it's exciting that lead singer Win Butler spent his "formative years" growing up in that community which makes this — to borrow a title from a beloved U2 anthem — A Sort of Homecoming.
But it's time all of the greater Houston area suck on the bitter pill of reality for a moment and come to grips with a very real truth: Arcade Fire is not a band from The Woodlands.
It is not even a Texas band. It is not even an American band and anyone saying anything to the contrary must also accept the equally preposterous notion that country icon Willie Nelson hails from Vancouver, Wash., or that Madonna is British.
My point: Just because an artist spent a chunk of time in an area does not make all that artist's past or future or past accomplishments the possession of that region. If that starts being the standard, then we're going to have to start rewriting a lot of history books.
(Although, in the case of Madonna, I'd be willing to trade the Brits the last 20 years of her career for say ... The Kinks? Hell, I'll even throw in Justin Bieber and his entire career if they promise to take Simon Cowell back permanently.)
While it is true that singer Butler, 31, lived in The Woodlands for a time in his youth, it is equally true that he was born in Truckee, Calif., and that by the time he was 15, he was attending a boarding school in New Hampshire that boasts former U.S. President Franklin Pierce and U.S. Senator Daniel Webster as alumni. After that, Butler spent time at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y. and McGill University in Montreal before Arcade Fire was finally set ablaze in 2003.
Surely, it makes no sense to have The Woodlands, Truckee, Yonkers, Montreal, The Pierce Presidential Library and the sailors who once proudly served on the USS Daniel Webster all claiming Arcade Fire for their own.
In cases of artistic ownership, Rock Music Law states (and I quote from this fictional tomb): The city in which the band/artist first met success is the city that shall claim rightful ownership over said artist/band. All others are E Pluribus Posers.
In other words, Arcade Fire is a band that hails from Montreal. In Canada.
The good news is that they are a kick ass band that hails from Montreal and just because they are not from here does not mean that they don't deserve a homecoming-type welcome when they take the Woodlands' shed stage. The band has been an "alt rock" and college radio darling for the nearly seven years since its debut album, Funeral, came out. In the time of disposal entertainment, that's a hell of a long time to keep working the fringe.
The genuine vulnerability and soul-searching of Funeral was somewhat unexpected in an era of contrived emotions and over-produced harmonies and earned it a rep as a new millennium classic from critics at Rolling Stone, Spin and many other long-revered music journal periodicals. The Arcade Fire albums that have followed have been similarly well-received.
In 2007, its sophomore album Neon Bible debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 (Sorry, Woodlands: It debuted at No. 1 in Canada) and the most recent album, The Suburbs, took the top spot (both in U.S. and Canada) and has sold over a half-million copies domestically in nine months.
The Suburbs also won album of the year at the Grammys in February.
In the perverted, singles-only world of iTunes rock, Arcade Fire is still a band that knows how to deliver an entire record, complete with story arc, depth and breadth of emotions. No doubt, these same elements will become even more palpable live on stage and that should make it a favorite of every rock 'n' roll lovin' kid (or kid at heart) regardless of where the band calls home.
7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion