#41 Arcade Fire
Win Butler had to slouch a little to fit into the freight elevator. He went directly to the back, leaned against the iron door, turned around, looked at the cramped space, and asked us, “Think we can all go back now?” Then he smiled a smile that a kid would give, pure and honest, like he had just found his hiding place. Win Butler smiled, and five weeks of work seemed to crumble before us.
During those weeks, I had been in continual contact with Vincent Morisset, who runs the Neon Bible site. Win and Régine had been responsible for coordinating our Take Away Show. We had discussed dates and places, imagining the Madeleine at night, the knoll at the Île de la Cité, an old café, a roundabout behind the Olympia...We checked the weather every day and despaired about the cold front that was passing through Paris. We had surveyed the entire inhumane neighborhood from top to bottom, trying to anticipate the crowd, the willpower of the group, the cold, and the fatigue. Then, suddenly, we had a plan. Win asked if there was a freight elevator. We found it, Win smiled, and the Take Away Show was no longer in our hands.
#41.1 - NEON BIBLE & WAKE UP
Réal : Vincent Moon
Shot in Paris, 2007
We knew that the Take Away Show with Arcade Fire wouldn’t be like the others. The project was made for them because they’re of a different kind, a different essence. We had spent the afternoon with them when suddenly we realized, in a flash: “yes, this group is different.”
We had been playing the role of “outsider” the entire day, like a foreign body that latches onto the daily grind of these magnificent musicians. We had to adapt, through astonishment and wonder, as the band took up their instruments and started to play. But Arcade Fire didn’t take us as outsiders. It all seemed to unfold naturally: we entered into their logic as they awaited us and eventually swallowed us up. It was now Win Butler’s Take Away Show, and we followed.
It was too cold to play outside after the show, so we initially thought about playing in the entrance hall during Electrelane’s performance, but the Olympia didn’t allow it. All we had left was the freight elevator, and we had to do a little convincing to make it happen. On the other side of the elevator, there was a door that would lead us into the concert hall. They could go back to the pit in the Olympia by exiting through there, and then re-exit through the door near the stage. Win wasn’t so hot on the plan...the venue was a little too big and the whole thing sounded complicated. It took us about 20 minutes to convince him, not knowing at all what was waiting for us at the other end of this crazy idea. Win went back to tell Richard and Will to follow him to the elevator, with everyone asking when to play, or whether this was going to happen before or after the show. It was going to be before. Régine was the only one who thought differently, and there were a few seconds of furious looks, which immediately mellowed and eased into resolution. The big guy won, and everyone went back to reconfigure the set-list.
Arcade Fire is a unique group. Everyone’s split up during the day, managing and wandering through his/her own affairs in the dressing rooms and corridors. No one seems to move about as much as Win, who manages everything, knows everything, watches everything, and hears everything. Afterwards, as show time approaches, everyone slowly comes together again, each still folded into him/herself. A couple of notes sound from a bugle, Régina taps on a box, Jérémy amuses himself with a drum, and Tim does a little Monty Python dance. A mobile cacophony, a music that takes form, several people coming together, and some random and various snippets of songs to come. Everyone is concentrating alone, but at the same time following a trace towards the group’s uncanny unity. As the orchestra tuned and grew powerfully aligned, we started towards the elevator.
The rest waits on film. We all bunched into the elevator, and I took my position at Richard’s feet. They started off with an enchanting version of “Neon Bible” and the door opened, allowing us to approach and penetrate the massive torrent of fans. I didn’t think about anything more. I was taken by the fervor, watching Vincent Moon with his camera, screaming in silence, and thinking over and over again:
“We did it. Shit, we really did it!”