Arcade Fire have a long link to the Boston area, from frontman Win Butler’s prep-school days at Philips Exeter Academy to shows that grew from T.T. the Bear’s Place to TD Garden, which Butler called “his favorite Boston show ever” last year. The band even sprang a novel stage design at that Garden concert, performing in a center boxing ring under screens flashing “infinite content” from Everything Now, the band’s satirical 2017 shot at consumerism that drew mixed critical reactions.
But fans (and there were a tent-load of them) who put their money down for Arcade Fire’s victory lap at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on Wednesday got a very different – and more levitating – show, even without the boxing ring as the Montreal indie-rockers proved they remain one of music’s best live acts.
For starters, Arcade Fire had the gall to open — rather than close — with its most cherished anthem, the chant-rolling escalator “Wake Up” — the boldest stroke along those lines since the Killers opened Boston Calling with “Mr. Brightside.”
Arcade Fire’s Regine Chassagne at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.
It was a hard act to top for a while, but the group took fresh turns that built momentum. The group included a chunk of Everything Now, early with the synth-bubbling “Electric Blue” (with Butler’s keyboardist wife Regine Chassagne cooing lead vocals and doing robotic moves) and ad-screening “Put Your Money on Me.” But the heart of the set focused on several songs from 2010’s Grammy-winning The Suburbs, including the title track (fans singing along and cheering as a seagull flew around its own captive environment) and the coiled rocker “Ready to Start.”
The nine-piece group benefitted as always from its seamless multi-instrumental shuffle, switching among guitars, keyboards, drums (including that tilted bass drum that Richard Reed Parry pounds) and both electric and acoustic bass, with violin on top. And the band slipped in rarer inclusions like the acoustic “Cars and Telephones” and the hymn-like “My Body is a Cage,” Butler atop a monitor in his red boots as he sang with horizontal lightbeams forming a grid across the stage.
The two-hour set hit two climaxes in the Euro-disco groover “Reflektor” (when Chassagne and Butler took separate jaunts out the aisles to a mirror ball by the soundboard, dancing and mingling with fans) and an encore-closing “Rebellion (Lies).” It wasn’t quite the punch of a “Wake Up” closer but less predictable for it.