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Arcade Fire Kick Off Tour with Heart and Soul at Montreal’s Osheaga Festival: Review

The band returns home for a thrilling set dedicated to Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins

Arcade Fire at Osheaga
Arcade Fire at Osheaga, photo by Mark Horton/Getty Images
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    Arcade Fire pick and choose their moments very carefully. It’s fitting that the Montreal band decided to release their first album in five years, the ambitious and heartfelt WEin a pandemic-affected universe, urging us to relish in the fact that we are still, in fact, alive. It’s even more fitting that Arcade Fire began their extensive WE tour in Montreal, the band’s birthplace, at Osheaga Festival, which is celebrating its first year back since 2019.

    However, Arcade Fire’s appearance at Osheaga on Friday night (July 29th) was a stroke of good and bad luck: originally scheduled to headline were Foo Fighters, who cancelled all their tour dates after the untimely death of drummer Taylor Hawkins. But nabbing Arcade Fire as a replacement headliner is an excellent booking, and their presence at Montreal’s biggest festival was welcomed with hometown reverie.

    Win Butler made sure to acknowledge Hawkins by the band’s third song; before launching into “The Suburbs.” In dedicating the performance to the Foo Fighters drummer, Butler urged fans, “If there’s someone you love and you know they’re going through shit, call them, tell them you love them. Never take that shit for granted.”

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    Luckily, Arcade Fire wasn’t taking this moment for granted. The band’s set was a high energy odyssey, with seven of WE‘s tracks represented across an hour and 45 minutes of music. Having seen Arcade Fire twice already this year at their surprise Bowery Ballroom show in NYC and Coachella — two very, very different show environments — I was very curious to see the band in a much larger, more anthemic setting. The massive and passionate hometown crowd was a true sight to behold, and it felt like this was the intended environment for an Arcade Fire show in 2022.

    The band began with tension — opener “Age of Anxiety I” is a fascinating slow burn, with Butler and Régine Chassagne trading dystopian lines and the band working itself up to a psychedelic meltdown. But all that tension dissipated with The Suburbs cuts “Ready To Start” and “The Suburbs” following immediately after. Not only did these song inspire one of the many full crowd sing-a-longs, they’re an enduring pair that epitomize the tense and emotional heart of The Suburbs.

    After a passionate rendition of “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” Butler dedicated their performance of Neon Bible’s “No Cars Go” to Josh Deu and Tim Kile, both former members of Arcade Fire. “No Cars Go” in particular was one of the high points of the set, and though it was the only song the band chose to resurrect from Neon Bible, it’s still a powerful, electrifying track — especially live.

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