Last Night: Arcade Fire At Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

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Photos by Marc Brubaker
Arcade Fire, Explosions In the Sky
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
May 4, 2011

Check out pics of Arcade Fire's intimate concert in our slideshow.

It was a sort of homecoming for titanic indie-rockers Arcade Fire Wednesday night in the Woodlands, as the band returned to Houston after five momentous years to play songs from The Suburbs, the Album of the Year-winning disc that was inspired in part by the neighborhoods surrounding the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion where members Win and Will Butler spent their formative years.

The venue's lawn was closed, a marked change from the usual sight of the teeming numbers lying on blankets and quilts. Bringing the crowd closer in to the stage, utilizing all of the covered seating - and only the covered seating - turned what is usually a terrifyingly alienating shed into a warmer club or theater setting.

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Austin openers Explosions In The Sky laid down a perfect mist of their own churning instrumental rock around 8 p.m. to sate the noise-hungry masses. Their signature sound, intricate guitars and swelling expanses, is more of a main-course musical dish and not an opener, but they thrilled fans and newbies alike.

Aftermath took a lap around CWMP after getting a beverage and even the seats 100 yards back were great. Whether that was a band or Live Nation call, we don't know. The key element in Arcade Fire's success is the feeling of intimacy, on record and in the flesh, and we couldn't imagine seeing them in any place bigger than what they created in the Woodlands last night.

Thinking about seeing them at Madison Square Garden or Zilker Park seems like a clinical concept now.

Opening with clips from tribal youth flicks like Over The Edge and The Warriors put the band's Suburbs in the perfect context we had been waiting for. It's not an album about hating the suburbs, it's about the simple joys there, and the triumph of bringing those joys with you once you leave it.

Every AF disc has been about the suburbs in one way or the other, whether those of the mind or a physical locale. Look back at the band's Funeral album. They have been blessed with the gift of longing that makes them and Bruce Springsteen so good at conveying isolation while amongst great numbers, and feeling powerless in the midst of opulence.

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The stabbing snare of "Ready To Start" got us kicked off around 9:30 p.m., with the crowd surging forward almost instantly. As for the band's supposedly tepid relationship with The Woodlands, Win Butler stepped out after that first song to ingratiate himself to his home base.

"Good evening The Woodlands, Texas. It's good to be home," Butler bellowed happily, his greeting met by manic applause and cheers. After so many tales through the grapevine of the bandleader feeling less than complimentary of The Woodlands and the area to the south, it was nice to hear.


Location Info

Map

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, TX

Category: Music


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27 comments
Joanna
Joanna

All I have to say is that even after almost a week I am still talking about the show and yearning for more. I have been to many shows at CMWP as well as the Verizon and not to mention various venues in Austin and have to say this was by far the best concert from start to finish I have ever been too. We were one of the many that charged the pit after Win's gesture to do so and were able to get up close and the climax of the show (Neighborhood #3- Power Out). The crowd was so electrifying, singing along, and jumping up and down that event the wooden floor began to bounce!! So much energy I wished it didn't have to end!

Jenny Decimal
Jenny Decimal

I don't know where this idea ever came from that the Butlers had a beef with Texas or The Woodlands. People who heard weird reviews of The Suburbs rather than actually listening to the thing, maybe? Maybe people who assume rockstars must be jerks? I don't know.

It certainly doesn't come from the Butlers. Win's made a point of breaking out the Don't Mess With Texas shirts offstage for a while now, and he's even mentioned working at the Pavilion at a few other shows.

They talk about the place like anybody talks about the place they grew up - there's good and bad stuff to remember, and that's just how it is. But they've clearly got a lot of fond memories of the time they spent there, it comes through all over their music. The ambivalence of The Suburbs is mainly about how much has changed since they left, and the places they remembered disappeared.

Kind of a shame people got that idea in their heads about the Butlers, but it's good to see they at least dispelled some of it last night.

KevYokubaitis
KevYokubaitis

Damn good write up! It physically hurts that i missed the show.

Mugen
Mugen

Came there thinking the show wouldn't sell out. Bought 2 tickets from somebody trying to unload their tickets at the entrance for a total of $20. Paid $11 for beer and they gave me 2 beers for price of one by accident. Tickets were at the front row right by the pit. Loved EITS (primary reason for going). Stuck around for AF as a casual fan and came away a disciple. Had a good night.

Evan
Evan

I read on twitter there were issues with the security. What was the deal with that?

Davemelbourne58
Davemelbourne58

Count me too among the converted to the church of Arcade Fire. I admit I'm a Johnny-Come -Lately fan thanks mostly to those glowing reviews from Coachella, Rolling Stone, etc. But I was not disappointed in the least by last nights stellar performance. Like Springsteen, you've got to see Arcade Fire play live to really appreciate their music. My only beef was that I wasn't exactly thrilled with Explosions in the Sky's opening set. Talented musicians, to be sure. They're just not arena-ready yet. That's a hard one to pull off if you've only been woodshedding your skills in bars around Texas. Great name for a band, but maybe a little pyro going off behind them might have saved me from thinking "Emperor's New Clothes" while they droned on endlessly last night. Can't wait to see what the future brings....

Nosaprise
Nosaprise

fucking awesome show fucking awesome write up. the security was a lil buzz kill though.

Mark C. Austin
Mark C. Austin

Hands down best show I've ever seen at The Woodlands! F'ing epic. Only wish more of the crowd got into like we did. Thanks, EITS and AF! Come back soon.

guest
guest

As a big EitS fan, I was disappointed that they couldn't squeeze in "Your Hand in Mine" into their 50 min set. Still, as always, they put on a hell of a show.

Josh Webster
Josh Webster

This was my first trip back to they Pavillion since Ike, and I found it even worse than before. My seats were in one of the new sections that used to be part of the lawn. These seats are about as wide as a coach airline seat and hundreds of them have their view either partially or cmpletely obstructed by the structural support members of the pavilion. The first 3 seats next to each isle offer no view of the stage at all. Lame. Also, be prepared pin your ticket stub to your shirt, as you will be questioned by a penlight-wielding usher every 50 feet. That being said, the band was great, as was the audio and video production (for those who could see it.)

Andrew
Andrew

Great show, EITS was orgasmic and AF did their thing. The music was stellar but once again ruined by stupid Houston crowds. When attending a concert their is no reason to continue a screaming conversation while the bands are playing.

shortbus
shortbus

Last night’s show was amazing and I don’t say that often when it comes to concerts. I don’t know if it was the “coziness” of the venue by not having lawn seats available, imagining what it must have been like for Win working at the Pavilion living out his dream of playing there or the energy from the crowd, but I was very impressed. Please note, I was nothing more than a casual fan when I attended the show. I was merely along for the ride as my girlfriend wanted to go. Watching members of the band move around to different instruments had me giddy like watching The Harlem Globetrotters moving the basketball around; I was trying to anticipate their next move. The showmanship of the band at times gave me chills, brought a smile to my face and had me singing along. The music was great, the sound and visual were perfect and I wished it would have lasted longer. I am no longer a casual fan and I hope if/when AF come to town again, the have the same set-up and will anxiously await their return.

Johnnybuck
Johnnybuck

Power Out > Rebellion in the pit was incredible. I wish I could do it again too! 

Josh Webster
Josh Webster

I thought the album was far more nostalgiac than bitter.

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

I think it was partly due to people in the media assuming that to write a stirring album about a place you left behind means that it had to be traumatic.

"It's not an album about hating the suburbs, it's about the simple joys there, and the triumph of bringing those joys with you once you leave it."

I totally agree with you.

Andrew
Andrew

Win encouraged people to invade the aisle and security went ape shit about that. Typical Woodlands "wholesome and family" attitude, it was funny seeing security getting stomped by people. Win had some sly remarks about the situation.

ko
ko

"if you've only been woodshedding your skills in bars around Texas" what? they've toured around the world numerous times...

Mark C. Austin
Mark C. Austin

Oh and I f'ing fantastic review and photos, Craig and Mark! You guys saw the same exact show that I did.

Andrew
Andrew

Yeah your absolutely right, was disappointed by that. Not to mention I missed half of my favorite "The Only Moment We Were Alone" while getting a 6$ coke.

Jenny Decimal
Jenny Decimal

I think you've hit the nail on the head. As much as I love Arcade Fire, I'm actually not totally crazy about The Suburbs because it's so completely tied to a particular formative experience that I didn't have. But I definitely didn't come away from it feeling like the folks who wrote it hated the place they're talking about. I didn't think they had some nostalgic Pleasantville ideal of the place either, but to me that's the main success of the thing. It's an album gathering up *all* of the feelings an adult has about the time they spent growing up, without simplifying it or reducing it down in either direction.

It's weird to be a teenager. It's not as hard as My So Called Life thought it was, but it's not as easy as Glee thinks it is either. It's only natural that the place you spent that whole time is totally anchored to all those weird, conflicting feelings. And the experience of returning as an adult, to find all the landmarks you lived around for so long have disappeared brings weird conflicting feelings all of it's own.

Great show review by the way. I wasn't at this one, but you nailed all the stuff I bored my friends with for weeks after I last saw them play. Amazing experience, hell of a band. I wonder though if they won't soon hone their sets to so fine a point that they get trapped in basically same show every night though, a la Flaming Lips.

Nosaprise
Nosaprise

did i mention flasks of whiskey!

Josh Webster
Josh Webster

Mine was a Blue Moon. 9.75 is pretty silly too.

eudemonist
eudemonist

Your was domestic, Craig. Either that, or your famous mug got you a hefty two-dollar discount.

mike
mike

Is it the outside version of the House of Blues?

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