On tour in support of an album whose press campaign spawned fake news, fake reviews and fake corporations shilling fake products, Arcade Fire came to the stage Saturday night with an equal dose of unreality. Introduced as the “undefeated, undisputed, heavyweight champions of the world,” the band made its way to the center of the Capital One Arena floor to an in-the-round stage surrounded by boxing ropes as a Michael Buffer-esque announcer humble-bragged about the band’s countless awards and honors.
Thankfully, the fakery mostly ceased once the band picked up their instruments, a welcome course correction after masquerade gimmickry and a too-crowded bandstand bogged down their 2014 “Reflektor” album tour. The band has found a sweet spot with its eight-member arrangement, the perfect number of multi-instrumentalists needed to bring their brand of baroque pop to life. But for Arcade Fire these days, life is a never-ending dance party, one that began on “Reflektor” and continues on this year’s “Everything Now.”
On Saturday night, that meant plenty of songs like the album’s title track and “Signs of Life,” which find the band impersonating Abba and Talking Heads, respectively, while lightly satirizing consumption and the search for meaning in a binge-watch culture. It also meant retrofitting old favorites such as “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Haiti” into this new, four-on-the-floor paradigm.
“Everything Now” is mostly concerned with the side effects of the Information Age’s overwhelming stimuli. In concert, the band doubles down on sensory overload, performing under a four-sided video screen that projects music videos, Web 1.0 computer graphics and live footage of the band with a host of color- and reality-warping effects. And even as the band hurried to switch instruments and configurations, the busiest people might have been the members of the lighting crew.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the show used every kind of light there is: light that flew in sideways and light that seemed to come straight up from underneath. Régine Chassagne sang “Electric Blue,” her barely-there falsetto piercing a bath of the same color. Later, reaching its synergistic apex, the band performed “Put Your Money on Me” — a love song lost in half-baked critiques of consumerism — in green lights and under an infomercial montage with a dollar sign counter that tracked fools parting from their money.
There were moments when the band returned to its earnest, art school origins, back when the members didn’t think they knew how to dance and were just modest mice with big dreams. Catalogue highlight “Neon Bible” proved that the band is better when rocking than dancing, but they spent most of the show doing the latter anyway, building a wall of sound (opening act Preservation Hall Jazz Band supplemented the band during the encore), smoke and lights that eventually dulled the senses. Somehow, Arcade Fire forgot the moment of truth revealed on new song “Creature Comfort”: “We wanna dance, but we can’t feel the beat.”