The Blondie singer helps end Weekend 1 of the festival with "Heart Of Glass."
Arcade Fire headlined a day of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival just three years ago, and since then, the Montreal indie-rock collective has only gotten bigger, both in terms of its international profile as well as the in the number of musicians now crowding the stage in order to give the band's new "Reflektor" material its full impact. The band has also gotten feistier -- or at least, frontman Win Butler has, judging from his critical comments about Coachella's atmosphere and the other artists on the bill.
Before performing "The Suburbs" about 40 minutes into Arcade Fire's performance, Butler decried Coachella's "fake VIP room bullshit," telling the members of the general audience that the exclusive area of the festival grounds is "super sucks" and to not worry about being a part of it. A collective cheer rose up from the non-VIP beer garden, which is adjacent to the VIP area and separated by a chain link fence.
Later in the performance, Butler quipped to the crowd, "Shout-out to all the bands still playing actual instruments at this festival." This may have been a veiled shot at the many production stars that brought EDM to Coachella 2014, which included Calvin Harris, Alesso and Duck Sauce on Sunday (Apr. 13).
While comments like these were unexpected from the group, Arcade Fire's high-quality collection of towering rock songs was typically thrilling. The "Reflektor" songs -- like the title track, "Joan of Arc" and especially "Here Comes The Night Time" -- were often as well-received as the songs from the troupe's well-worn albums, although no run of songs could graze the one-two punch of "Funeral" songs "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" and "Rebellion (Lies)."
The band has been disregarding its sophomore LP "Neon Bible" the most out of its four albums on its recent tour, but the Coachella sequence of "No Cars Go," "Keep The Car Running" and a snippet of "My Body Is a Cage" was a treat for completists in the crowd. If Butler has evolved into the consummate frontman of a headlining act over the band's decade-long ascendance, Regine Chassagne has turned into an equally potent jack-of-all-trades, scooping up various instruments and nailing her vocal turns while never ceasing to smile.
Chassagne was also involved with the biggest surprise of the performance, when Debbie Harry appeared as a surprise guest and duetted with Chassagne on a punchy version of Blondie's "Heart Of Glass." Harry then stuck around to help Arcade Fire with "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," looking a bit unsteady with the lyrics but gamely abetting Chassagne with some background crooning.
Arcade Fire was forced to rush through its finale before the midnight curfew of the festival, eschewing an encore to plow through "Wake Up" before the power was turned off. After midnight, however, Butler led his Canadian troops into the audience, marching with a megaphone and keeping the vocal chants of "Wake Up" going for a few extra minutes as the band played acoustically. The usually congenial members of Arcade Fire were in the mood to rebel on Sunday night, keeping the first weekend of Coachella up past its bedtime and flashing some spunk in their festival return.
Arcade Fire's Full Setlist:
'Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)'
'Joan of Arc'
'The Suburbs (Continued)'
'Ready to Start'
'Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)'
'No Cars Go'
'Keep the Car Running'
'It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)'
'Heart of Glass'(with Deborah Harry)
'Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)' (with Deborah Harry)
'Here Comes the Night Time'