HOLLYWOOD, California — Arcade Fire, indie rock's favorite theater kids, take Halloween seriously. At their Palladium show on All Hallows' Eve, the environment was unapologetically campy with tombstones, plastic skeletons, cobwebs and pumpkins lining the corridors of the Hollywood theater. A mariachi band greeted the crowd as they shuffled into the venue; it had also accompanied Arcade Fire, 10 minutes before doors opened, as they entered via a red carpet with their now-signature papier-mâché bobbleheads.
It was the first of the band's shows, which they're playing as the Reflektors, where they didn't request that the audience arrive in shining attire or dress up for the occasion. They didn't have to with the date being October 31 and the location being Hollywood, the heart of the film industry and one of the few cities in the world where adults get more into Halloween than trick-or-treaters. But just in case attendees arrived without a costume, Arcade Fire had set up a stand that handed out carnival, mirrored and presidential-themed masks for free.
Arcade Fire's costumes, on the other hand, mostly defied classification. Frontman Win Butler and singer Régine Chassagne jumped at the opportunity to get crafty with their outfits: He wore several masks — from a Lucha Libre tiger headpiece to a face-painted pink DayGlo bandit to his papier-mâché mask (which he stuck on his mic stand near the end of the show) — and she was styled in a tattered, layered dress and fringed arm warmers. The theme of the evening pervaded Arcade Fire's hour-long set. "My grandfather played this room back in the day, so I feel the spirits," Butler said, referencing Alvino Rey, who is credited with pioneering the pedal steel guitar.
Butler was pleased with the crowd's costume choices. "Raise your hand if you're not a sexy nurse," he said, followed by a drum roll. "Now raise your hand if you are a sexy nurse. Alright, I like those odds." In the audience, many wore face paint. There was also a swan-era Björk, a Jarvis Cocker look-alike and a girl wearing a cardboard coffin, which was a nod to Arcade Fire's album (and title track) Funeral.
"I've never seen a bunch of freakier weirdoes I don't know where," Butler later added. "Los Angeles, California, where all of the freaky weirdoes come to stay and have freaky weirdo babies. So let's make gay marriage be super f---ing normal," he declared before introducing "Normal Person," from their recently released Reflektor album. The song ignited a mosh pit, and it was the closest Arcade Fire's set came to being a typical rock show. They kept up the momentum throughout the next song, a cover of Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge."
Despite the size of the 3,800-capacity Palladium, Butler kept the show personal. He turned the ennui of "Flashbulb Eyes" into a cheeky invitation for photos: He hovered above the audience and picked up one of the attendee's cameras and posed with it. After Arcade Fire delivered an encore of "Haiti" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," Butler told the crowd, "We've got a DJ. Let's have a party after this. We're going to come out and dance with you." By then, almost everyone's face paint had melted off — including his.