"Set my spirit free," begged Win Butler, a towering man standing on a tall riser coaxing massive chords from a pipe organ. Arcade Fire's frontman was singing "My Body Is a Cage" at the Orpheum on Thursday, accompanied by nine musicians and several thousand music lovers, all united in the vaguely defined but radically exuberant quest for release. For the Montreal indie band touring behind a glorious collection of dystopian epics called "Neon Bible," that means transcending the soul-numbing nightmare of modern life. For others, it signified freedom from finals. The particular circumstances hardly mattered.
The show was a revival disguised as a rock concert, a spirited gathering predicat ed on the belief that the right combination of hurdy-gurdies, French horns, electric guitars, and accordions can take you higher. There was an element of self-fulfilling prophecy to the proceedings -- crusades and concerts alike are largely a matter of preaching to the converted, and Arcade Fire's fans exhibit the fierce allegiance of early adopters whose obscure discovery has suddenly become a juggernaut. But the band played its part with heart and vigor.
The music was huge. Majestic, post-apocalyptic anthems from the band's 2004 debut, "Funeral," and "Neon Bible," released two months ago, were delivered with relentless urgency. There was little rest until the final moments of the 90-minute set, which the band unfortunately chose to conclude on a downbeat note with the new album's title track.
Of course size isn't everything. A spotty mix was exacerbated by the indie nation's unwritten rule prohibiting crisp vocals. Many audience members were happy to fill in the blanks.
Visually, the show was like a kinetic sculpture. Band members were in constant motion: switching up instruments, taking turns at various megaphones scattered about the stage, and falling to their knees or lunging into the aisles when catharsis demanded. The end is near and, according to Arcade Fire, ecstatic songs are the only logical response. If nothing else , they make the remaining hours a little more exhilarating.