- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

Music fans packed the 9:30 Club Sunday to see one of the hottest bands in indie rock, the Arcade Fire, from Montreal. They did not go home disappointed.

Buzz has been building about the group’s debut album, “Funeral,” and also about its live performances. (The band appears tonight on NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.”)

Frontman Win Butler told the crowd about the group’s upcoming exposure between songs — but he wasn’t sure whether to be excited or frightened about it.

Money and fame, he intimated with uncertainty and concern, has too often sabotaged authenticity in art.

However, the eight-member band didn’t worry about that during Sunday’s wild 90-minute set, which combined beautiful, sometimes soaring melodies with a mix of hyper and slower tempos.

Arcade Fire has five core members. Mr. Butler is on guitar; his wife, Regine Chassagne, plays keyboards; and Tim Kingsbury is on bass. Joining them are Mr. Butler’s younger brother, Will, and Richard Parry — a “Napoleon Dynamite” look-alike — on a variety of instruments. Most band members played more than one instrument during Sunday’s show, including an upright bass, xylophone, violin, accordion, piano and harmonica.

Clad in black (three of the boys wore ill-fitting black suits and ratty New Balance sneakers laced too tight), they kicked off their set with the menacing guitar riff of “Wake Up,” complete with its pounding drums. The entire band yelled the opening chorus in unison before making way for Mr. Butler’s haunted voice.

Mr. Parry and Will Butler screamed, yelled, jumped around, climbed onto amps and even ascended onto the second-story balcony above the stage, hitting every surface and object with drumsticks.

By contrast, Miss Chassagne was serene and in control, while Win Butler was intense and — by turns — angry and then lighthearted. The crowd sang along with him during “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” when he came to the chorus: “You change all the lead sleeping in my head to gold.”

The song “Haiti” showcased the band’s talent for combining different influences into its music. The evening’s only low points came during two new songs, “Intervention” and “Burning Bridges,” when the band seemed more focused on the instruments and playing the tunes correctly than on just having fun.

There’s no mistaking Arcade Fire’s enthusiasm for music and for life. What the band does with it in the years to come remains to be seen. Yet those lucky enough to see it Sunday loudly thanked the musicians for the gift of seeing sheer passion on stage.

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