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Published: 2011/09/27

Arcade Fire Plays For Over 100,000 Fans in Montreal

Arcade Fire played a sprawling, two-hour hometown free show in the heart of Montreal Thursday night. The performance drew over 100,000 fans to the Place des Festivals, many of whom watched the show on large screens set up several blocks away from the festival’s massive stage. One projector even broadcast the show on the side of a nearby Hyatt hotel. The massive show—part of Pop Montreal’s 10th anniversary celebration—was billed as the band’s homecoming after over a year of touring behind their third studio album The Suburbs, the first album to simultaneously help a band score top honors at the Grammys and the indie-centric Polaris Music Prize. The show was one of the largest headlining gigs by an indie rock band ever staged in North America.

After opening sets by Canadian DJ Kid Koala and Francophone Montreal group Karkwa, the members of Arcade Fire took the stage to the same Suburbs -themed video montage that has opened each show since the album’s release. Opening with The Suburbs song “Ready to Start,” Arcade Fire played material from all three of their albums as well as the less regularly played b-side “Speaking in Tongues” (which features David Byrne on the record). Before jumping into the early Arcade Fire song “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” frontman Win Butler revealed that he finished the song’s lyrics after moving to Montreal almost exactly ten years earlier. Though Butler formed the band while living in Boston, Arcade Fire really took shape when he moved to Canada. He also reminisced about a few of the bands early, free shows during the night.

Besides Montreal, Arcade Fire’s minds seemed firmly planted in band co-leader Régine Chassagne’s native Haitti. Both Butler and Chassagne spoke about the recent devastation in Haiti—the latter in French—and Butler stressed Montreal’s ties to the country. Though Butler usually acts as the band’s MC, Chassagne made an extended speech before bringing out Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of the Haitian non-profit organization Partners In Health, to address the crowd. Arcade Fire is partially behind the book Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder’s Farmer biography which was released in French.

At another point in the show Butler, summed up the evening’s blend of cultures. After reminiscing about a trip he took with Chassagne and his brother/bandmate Will to see Kid Koala open for Radiohead, he described how “Montreal” it felt to have an English-speaking band play with a French speaking band. “It feels like Montreal,” he said. “It feels like home.”

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