Over the past few years, Arcade Fire has experienced one of the more spectacular growth spurts that rock has seen in ages, leapfrogging several steps on the trek from clubs to arenas and scaling the charts with an alacrity that’s all but unheard of in the indie ranks.
At this two-night Garden stand, the Montreal-based aggregation was marking the release of its sprawling new Merge disc “The Suburbs” — a recording that’s on track to top the album chart in its first week of release, bettering its 2007 predecessor, “Neon Bible,” by one position. Sales will no doubt be goosed by sub-five dollar pricing at some digital outlets, but anticipation has been remarkably high by any standard.
While the sheer expanse of the new material would seem ideally suited to the environs, frontman Win Butler dipped into it selectively, sprinkling samples throughout the group’s 100-minute performance. Given the fact that the band sometimes seemed hamstrung by placement on smaller stages — like their intimate Judson Church gig here three years ago — it wasn’t altogether surprising to see them flourish in the Garden’s wide-open spaces.
Co-founder Regine Chassagne took to the challenge particularly well, seething through her vocal take on the pulsating “Haiti” and underscoring most of the set with careening counter-melodies on accordion and hurdy-gurdy (perhaps the first time that instrument made it onto the MSG stage). Butler stepped things up on a mid-set run-through of the new album’s two-part title track, a somewhat overwrought, but endearingly longing evocation of a landscape that might seem bloodless at first blush.
Richard Reed Parry’s knotty guitar fillips brought out plenty of color in that salvo, as well as in the tangentially connected troika of “Laika,” “Power Out” and “Tunnels.” The passion flagged a bit on more synthesizer-driven songs — “Half Light 2” recalled Depeche Mode’s lesser moments — but by the final crescendos of the encore-ending “Wake Up,” the fire was burning brightly indeed.
Terry Gilliam is to direct a YouTube webcast of the Arcade Fire’s second Gotham show on Thursday night.