I’ve been utterly smitten by Arcade Fire ever since I saw them live five years ago at Austin City Limits. I’d heard their music on the radio for a year or two but I didn’t care for the Springsteen bombast, the cloying Irish folk undercurrent or Win Butler’s brittle voice. But live was another matter. It wasn’t just that the band made some effort to actually perform for an audience (all too rare these days); it was the audience’s response that I found intoxicating. In Los Angeles we have, shall we say, spoiled audiences who find it gauche to show any inkling of excitement about a musical performance. But even this chilly bunch was set afire at the Shrine (the old Academy Awards venue) by this wacky Canadian collective.
So I thought it was appropriate that Arcade Fire used interactive technology to continue that powerful exchange with their audience in their music videos. Their latest, The Wilderness Downtown, allows viewers to enter data about the location of their childhood home: images from Google Earth are integrated into the song “We Used to Wait” to haunting effect. At the end, you can scribble a message to children growing up in your old hometown. I knew exactly what my advice would be . . .