A review by Gabriel Sigler for Bad Feeling.
This year’s KANPE Kanaval show, the annual Haiti benefit event co-founded by Arcade Fire band member Régine Chassagne, upped the ante in every way. First there was the new venue, a move to the large Metropolis, following last year’s packed party at the considerably smaller S.A.T. And then there was the headliner — Arcade Fire playing their first official Montreal show in nearly three years, in a club show setting much more intimate than their last show here, at the enormous Parc Jean Drapeau.
While for many this was simply an Arcade Fire show with a number of unknown openers, the evening held true to the premise of the Kanaval, fulfilling its promise as both a benefit, as well as a celebration of Haitian culture.
Early evening sets by Fwonte and Tito Marechal set the tone for the night nicely, blending Haitian Creole with hip hop and blues, respectively, before Pierre Kwenders really lit up the crowd with a rousing set of genre-defying dance anthems.
The fundraising aspect of the night called for an on-stage raffle draw, that was awkwardly placed immediately following Kwenders’s rousing set and just before Coeur de Pirate was to take the stage. It was a necessary part of the evening, but a 30-minute raffle draw sure dampers a party atmosphere pretty quickly.
Coeur de Pirate then took the stage, and seemingly aware of how her solo piano ballads clashed with the festive vibe of the night, ran through her set as quickly as possible, dropping in a cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” for good measure.
“Fuck Donald Trump forever for 1,000 years,” exclaimed Win Butler before the band kicked into the rarely-played “Windowsill,” a somber start to their set, featuring the timely line, “I don’t want to live in America no more.” The opening notes of “Haiti” then rang out and we were off, as a number of vividly-dressed dancers took to the stage, providing the most Kanaval-esque moment of the night so far.
With a new album on the way, this would have been the perfect time for Arcade Fire to debut some new music, but in order to keep the party going they stuck to a hits-filled set, to the delight of the crowd. A ferocious “Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)” was the first hair-raising moment in the set, and segueing right into “Rebellion (Lies)” drove the energy in the room right through the roof.
Eventually, earlier performers including Pierre Kwenders joined the band on-stage, adding to the collaborative aspect of the night, and truly creating a celebratory, anything-goes Kanaval feeling. The band then closed out their 45-minute set with “Wake Up,” giving the crowd one last enormous sing-along.
For those that really wanted to keep the party going, Win Butler (aka DJ Windows 98) and friends then took to the DJ booth for the next few hours, keeping up the festive energy into very late (or early) in the night.