In retrospect, it should’ve been obvious. The stage at the Bushwick warehouse where Arcade Fire was supposed to play their “secret” show did seem awfully small, especially for such an unwieldy band. But that didn’t deter scores of fans, dressed up in their mandatory formal wear and/or costumes, from positioning themselves towards the small stage for roughly two hours, waiting for the Montreal indie-rockers to appear.
At around 9:30pm, James Murphy (former LCD Soundsystem frontman, current Arcade Fire producer) took the stage to apologize to the audience. “We can only get three members for right now,” he said. “I’d like to introduce the Reflektors!” A trio of figures wearing giant papier-mache heads jumped onto the stage, took their instruments, and began noodling around lifelessly. Hmm.
They abruptly exited the stage, and just as they did, a giant curtain on the far west side of the venue lifted and revealed another stage — the real one, more than large enough to accommodate the seven members of Arcade Fire. Thanks to the bait-and-switch move, people who thought they were at the front of the audience found themselves suddenly in the back. This caused a swarm of fans to race from one stage to the other as the band — performing under the name the Reflektors, which lines up with the title of their upcoming album — launched into their new single called (you guessed it) “Reflektor.”
So, the show started with a trick. If fans were upset, though, they quickly got over it. Within a few minutes into the set, the reoriented crowd was going nuts. “Merci beaucoup!” singer Win Butler, wearing the white suit and painted raccoon eyes that he also sported when the band performed on Saturday Night Live, shouted.
The packed warehouse responded accordingly, dancing along through a set of Reflektor songs they’d never heard before. There was the night’s second song “Flashbulb Eyes,” which had people swaying, and “We Exist,” a song with a strong Michael Jackson groove that proved irresistible to the rug-cutters. There were a couple of strong rock numbers, too: “Normal Person,” with its Talking Heads vibe, and “Joan of Arc,” a straight-up punk stomper. Things got deep (“Afterlife”), things got dark (“It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”), things got long (the drink line).
The crowd ate (and drank) it all up. But the night really hit fever pitch when the Reflektors decided to play the older songs “Sprawl II” and “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” — two Arcade Fire “cover songs,” as the band called them.
Butler also took a moment to address the mini scalping controversy brewing online. Tickets to the “unannounced” show, which had sold out within a minute of going on sale, had started popping up on StubHub and Craigslist for thousands of dollars. After explaining that most of the tickets were actually bought during a pre-sale, he conceded, “There could have been a bunch of weird scalper dudes, but I think it was pretty much humanity doing its thing. So welcome, humans.”
The night ended with “Here Comes the Night Time,” a mellow, dubby new jam that the crowd recognized from the band’s extended SNL appearance. Butler ended the song by running through the audience and away from the stage. Fans, unsure if the set was really over and determined not to get tricked again, stuck around hoping for an encore. Mercifully, Butler soon realized he had to take the stage again to explain himself.
“We’re not playing any more, but we’re going to be DJing,” Butler said. “So stay and dance, and I’ll come down and dance with you.” There was a smattering of friendly boos, but everyone was smiling anyway.