Last Night: Arcade Fire @ Red Rocks, Monday, September 17

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Arcade Fire, with LCD Soundsystem September 17, 2007 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Better than: Uh, just about anything else in recent memory.

Slide Show

Epic. Grandiose. Those are fitting descriptors for Monday night’s unreal double bill at the Rocks featuring LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire.

Soundsystem got things going a little before 8 p.m. with a vigorous set of pulse-pounding tunes that mesmerized the enthusiastic crowd. Despite admitting to being winded (“This is very high altitude,” said frontman James Murphy. “Everytime I sing a high note, I feel like I’m going to pass out. If I do, well, uh, sorry.”), the act had little difficulty moving the masses of asses. LCD, which just joined this leg of the tour, served as the ideal opener on this night, leaving the throng in sweaty anticipation of the impending firestorm awaiting it in the wings.

Before Win Butler and company made their way on stage, a video montage depicting a fire-breathing televangelist who looked vaguely like David Allan Coe Dr. Gene Scott graced several of the circular monitors, which were placed on stands and situated at various points on the stage. As the preacher man spewed his acidic and, at times unintelligible invective, it set an ominous tone for the show.

As the grainy footage faded to black, the outfit took its places and immediately launched into “Black Mirror,” which elicited riotous applause. Surrounded by the Neon Bible insignia, the top half of a suspended pipe organ and back lit by red lights that cast a pall on the stage from underneath the drum riser, the band sounded flawless as it proceeded to tear through more than a dozen songs from Neon Bible, its latest effort, and Funeral, its lauded debut. On “Keep the Car Running” Butler broke out the mandolin, while several of his bandmates ventured to the front of the stage and offered up frenetic, makeshift percussion, pounding furiously on the front barricade with their drumsticks during “Neighborhood #2 (Laika).”

In between songs, Butler was refreshingly engaging. Roughly mid-set, he dedicated “Intervention” -- which contains the lines, “You're fightin' as a soldier on their side/You’re still a soldier in your mind/Though nothing's on the line” -- to “Governor Bush,” as he put it, and later made mention of playing at the Larimer Lounge the last time the band was in town. Rad.

Overall, it made for an absolutely perfect and unforgettable evening of music. The weather was pleasantly mild with only slight breezes here and there, including a brisk gust that kicked up as Butler introduced the fittingly titled “Cold Wind.” Butler’s voice was in top form throughout the show, and his performances was matched by his mates, who were also furiously on-point, with each player trading instruments periodically, creating a massively gorgeous cacophony of sounds. Even the presentation was on-point. Flirting with sensory overload -- everything from the lighting, the various projections on the rock formations behind the drum riser, to the color sweeps that alternately draped the stage in vibrant hues of red, purple, green and blue -- the setup perfectly enhanced the soundtrack.

To cap the night off, during “Rebellion (Lies),” Butler made his way into the crowd during the first verse and ended up finishing up the track surrounded by fortuitous members of the audience in the first few rows. By the last song, “Wake Up,” the entire venue sang along in an almost a soccer chant-like fashion and didn’t stop until long after the final refrain had faded.

Everyone’s always talked about how magical Arcade Fire is and, up until now, I’ve never really been able to completely co-sign that. Sure, I dug the records, but I was never what you’d consider a breathless fan. Well, after Monday night’s show -- which will go down as the best concert I’ve witnessed at Red Rocks since Radiohead and Beta Band in June 2001 -- I’ve since repented of my sin and been cleansed by the Fire.

-- Dave Herrera

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Never really a big fan of Arcade Fire. Until now. Stupid me.

Random Detail: Dude standing in front of us was draped in a Canadian flag like a super hero. Uh, the Great White Dork, perhaps?

By the Way: If anyone knows who that televangelist was at the beginning of the show, drop me a line. I have a sneaking suspicion that endless hours of entertainment await us on YouTube. Mystery solved. Thanks.

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