Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Arcade Fire: New album owes a lot to travels in Haiti


Arcade Fire front man Win Butler cites a big Haitian influence on the band’s new album 'Reflektor.'


MIAMI — A traditional Haitian rara band loudly snaked through the crowd, its insistent drums and horns drawing the members of Arcade Fire to a small outdoor stage.

The Canadian musicians thanked the members of Rara Lakay in a smattering of Haitian Creole, and building on their beats launched into songs from a new album heavily influenced by Haiti's unique rhythms.

"We wouldn't have been able to make this album without Haiti," Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler said.

The Thursday night show at the Little Haiti Cultural Center was the second of two Miami performances this week that billed the band as "The Reflektors." Arcade Fire's new album "Reflektor" comes out next week.

Butler's wife and bandmate, Regine Chassagne, is Haitian, and the band has traveled to the Caribbean country in recent years, including a trip to Haiti's Carnival in Jacmel.

Butler told Rolling Stone this week that the songs on "Reflektor" explore the transformative experiences the band has had in Haiti, particularly the song "Here Comes the Night Time." It builds to a rara-inspired chaos, and Butler ad-libbed lyrics Thursday night referencing the thousands of Haitians who have attempted to flee their country's desperate conditions in boats, only to encounter hostility from U.S. authorities.

"Yeah, heaven's a place," Butler sang. "... It's behind the gate, they won't let you in, they'll send you to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, particularly if your boat seems to be coming from Port-au-Prince, Haiti."

Thursday's performance in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood was a kind of homecoming for the album. With traditional drummers banging on tall drums wrapped in reflective material, the band performed on a stage that regularly hosts popular Haitian bands for local Haitian-American crowds dancing under palm trees.

Arcade Fire didn't exactly attract a true Little Haiti crowd, but some older residents and shopkeepers gathered in doorways before the show to watch the band's fans, dressed in formal wear or costumes, line up for face painting that matched the bright, primary colors of the neighborhood's main street.

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