The Arcade Fire’s ascension to band of the moment was so swift (little known outside Montreal in September, now selling out three shows at the Troubadour) that it was easy to be skeptical. The band’s debut album, “Funeral” (Merge), did little to assuage doubts. Simultaneously precious and feckless, its spindly melodies, upholstered in dramatic faux-Victorian melancholy, sounded like an emo band drawn by Edward Gorey. But its first Troubadour show proved that, occasionally, the hype is right; the Arcade Fire is the real thing.
The young band (fronted by the married team of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne) plays with an energy and focus not hinted at on the album; bouncing all over the stage, the seven members switch instruments, bang on any available surface, adding additional layers of rhythm. The songs blossom, and the album’s overly mannered eccentricities begin to feel organic. Instead of holding itself at arm’s length from the listener, the band draws you in. There’s much despair in songs such as “Wake Up,” but there’s also a great sense of community. They vibrate with a twitchy angst but conclude with a swooning chorus of voices.
The Arcade Fire has come up with a rustic reworking of the Talking Heads (especially Win Butler’s strangled, yelping vocals), although during “Revolution (Lies),” with the violins sawing against the rhythm section’s Motown pulse, you can hear the distant call of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. But the Arcade Fire feels like more than the sum of their influences; they’re the smartest updating of the ’70s New Wave out there today.
The Arcade Fire plays two dates in New York: Feb. 1 at Webster Hall and Feb. 2 at Irving Plaza.