Please indulge me for a moment as I take a slight detour from the regular film discussion to dive into the realm of music. A few nights ago I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favourite bands, Arcade Fire, in concert. It was not my first experience with the band, in fact I had seen them strut their stuff twice before. However, this particular encounter served as an important reminder of something we all forget at one time or another.
In order for me to explain, let us start from the beginning.
My initial experience with the Canadian rock ensemble came when I saw them play The Danforth Music Hall. A venue that seems rather intimate in comparison to the grand buildings they play now. Arcade Fire’s performance was something to behold. Banging on the heads of their fellow helmet wearing band members with the recklessness of children playing with toy drums and marching through the aisle towards the balcony seating like Pied Pipers, it was an impressive display for a band who only had one full album and an EP at that point. Raw and full of energy and emotion, Arcade Fire had the crowd eating out their hands by the end of the night.
That magical show still ranks amongst my favourite concert experiences.
Flash forward a few years later to Massey Hall, one of the most iconic music venues in the city. The legendary building, with amazing acoustics, has housed a who’s who of top performers from around the world. Though not as raw, or recklessly spontaneous, as Arcade Fire’s previous performance, the grandness of their sound hinted that bigger things were to come…it was only a matter of time.
This brings us to Thursday night’s performance. The intimate and musician friendly venues were gone, replaced by a massive stadium known for its professional hockey and basketball teams. The band’s rough jagged edges had been smoothed over and given a glossy sheen. The props that once felt spontaneous had been retired in favor of fancy light shows and video trickery.
In short, it was no longer the band I had known and loved for all these years…or so I thought.
About four songs in, when they played their popular single ”Rebellion(Lies)”, a good track but far from my favourite in their canon, I realized that the problem was not Arcade Fire…it was me. I had been holding on to that front row experience at The Danforth Music Hall tightly like an overprotective parent unwilling to accept the fact that their toddler was now an adult. The group had grown and evolved as both artists and performers. It was time for me to grow with them.
Their creativity was still at the forefront, it never left really, Arcade Fire simply had a much bigger sandbox to play in. With their audience dress code of formal attire or costumes, the band was asking us to come and play with them. To not only enjoy the music they were playing, but also the party they were hosting. A bash complete with a human “reflektor”, plastic giant heads, video storytelling, a tambourine playing Rob Ford video head, and countless other party favors. By the sixth song or so, realizing the silliness of my stubborn ways, I was on my feet like the rest of the concert goers singing and dancing along.
What does all this have to do with film, you ask?
I think many of us have a tendency to, especially when it comes to the world of film, hold onto things a little tighter than we should. Similar to the way I was keeping Arcade Fire in a precious little box, many of us keep directors and performers in specific boxes. Instead of appreciating the fact that they have grown and spread their wings, we attempt to push them back into a preconceived packaging in which they no longer fit. It is why you will often come across those who vehemently proclaims things like “Scorsese was only good during the Robert De Niro period,” “Spielberg has fallen off since Saving Private Ryan,” or “ (insert your favourite independent director here) has gone too commercial” with little evidence to back up their claims.
While we all have our personal preferences when it comes to film, there is a large portion of people who simply want more of the same dish they were served once before. It is why the studios have made a killing off of sequels. However, sometimes it is good to have your favourite chef attempt a new dish. It is interesting to see artists like Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze explore themes about love in unique, and dare I say more grown up, ways with Moonrise Kingdom and Her respectively. There is something even more satisfying about seeing a director like Scorsese stepping out of his comfort zone with both Hugo and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Since it is so easy to settle into the rhythm of the familiar, we at times forget that change is good. It is necessary for the growth of not only the art form that we love, but ourselves as well. Like the confetti bomb and streamers that showered the crowd during Arcade Fire’s euphoric encore set, we should be celebrating all that change brings instead of trying to put things back into our own preconceived boxes.