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Ranking: Every Arcade Fire Cover from Worst to Best

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    The honest artist understands they belong to a historical spectrum and that their work is a conglomeration in homage or response to their multitude of life influences: be they historical, familial, or artistic. One of the most entertaining (read: vacuous, pointless) labors of a music critic is the speculative unraveling of the knot of influences combined in a band’s sound. Isolating the threads and themes can be a platform for exploring the anxiety of influence and asserting a presence in the lineage of treasured rock and roll royalty.

    It’s easy to look back, 10 years gone, at when Arcade Fire erupted on the scene and consider their birth Hellenic in its sudden completeness, as if they emerged fully formed from a smoldering Rock’n’Roll Godhead. Yet from the beginning, Arcade Fire have had an open, even fun relationship with the bands whose influence they could not shake, and instead openly embraced.

    Both on tour and on record (B-sides, truly), Arcade Fire paid regular homage to the bands and songs they loved from their youth and even showed occasional and sterling respect to their contemporaries.

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    Arcade Fire // Photo by Philip Cosores

    Photography by Philip Cosores

    Arcade Fire reached Arena Legend apotheosis last year when they embarked on the Reflektor Tour. Hardly shirking the trappings of the arena and its attendant grandeur — between epic light shows, the whole dancing bobblehead thing and the request that fans wear “formal attire or costume” — they took ownership of, and even embraced, the ridiculous spectacle of it all.

    To coincide with these concert-as-performance-art events, Arcade Fire also upped their cover game to a new level. They opened nearly every show with a regionally inspired cover and closed shows with epic guest stars and further covers. Additionally, Arcade Fire “side-project” Phi Slamma Jamma (featuring Richard Reed Parry, Will Butler, Jeremy Gara and Tim Kingsbury), who had been kicking around for a few years, played regular, “secret,” late-night all-cover shows.

    Suddenly, Arcade Fire’s already impressive list of selected cover songs grew tenfold. Amid the hits, there were more than a few misses, and since no fan could be there to see them all, we’ve compiled them into a single list.

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    Arcade Fire // Photo by Philip Cosores

    Photography by Philip Cosores

    Keep in mind, lists like this are completely arbitrary, and this one more arbitrary than most. Though the writers are all avowed Arcade Fire fans, none of us were lucky enough to see more than a handful of these tracks in person. We were therefore relegated to painstakingly watching jittery cellphone videos, admiring set lists, and comparing against the original (in fact, there were several covers with no identifiable documentation).

    While this makes our list a smidge (more) specious (than usual), it also gives you, dear reader, an opportunity to set us straight. Was the performance of “Axel F” in LA mind-blowing? Let us know. Better yet, use this opportunity to brag. How many of these have you seen in person? Which was best?

    With all that in mind, please join us in this categorical dissection of Arcade Fire’s covers, what they signify in the rewritten history of rock and roll, and whether or not they were totally awesome.

    –Kristofer Lenz
    Staff Writer

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    56. “Motownphilly”

    By Boyz II Men

    Performed: March 17, 2014, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

    Let’s give credit where credit is due. At least Arcade Fire veered wildly away from from when they opened their Philadelphia shows with this Boyz II Men R&B hit from 1991. Plus, the horn players must have been stoked to display their swinging chops. But Richard Reed Parry and his backing vocalists don’t have the same depth or tone as the original Philly boyz, leaving this version feeling more than a little flat and uninspiringly ironic. Perhaps we should be thankful they chose not to perform Michael Bivins’ rap (and subsequent a cappella breakdown). –Kristofer Lenz

    55. “Dust in the Wind”

    By Kansas

    Performed: April 26, 2014, at The Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO

    The plucked first opening notes of Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” manage to be both poignant and cheesy, depending on which perspective you take, but there’s no denying that this song is a latter-’70s classic. It was, obviously, a natural pick for a performance by William Butler and some bobbleheads at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City during the Reflektor Tour. There’s just one problem, as Win Butler points out near the end: “That’s a Kansas song, and we’re in Missouri. You fucked up.” The crowd, however, doesn’t seem to care. –Katherine Flynn

    54. “Devil Inside”

    By INXS

    Performed: January 22 and 28, 2014, at Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, AUS

    For two nights, fans in Melbourne, Australia, were witnesses to a cover of native favorite INXS’ killer “Devil Inside”. The chugging guitar line is raunchy as ever and Richard Perry makes a commendable attempt to recreate Michael Huttchence’s original vocals, but ultimately the cover falls well short of the crystallized late-’80s glam perfection of the original. –Kristofer Lenz

    53. “Dream Baby Dream”

    By Suicide

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    Performed: August 24, 2014, at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

    It’s hard to rag on any song featuring Arcade Fire accompanied by a vampiric David Byrne, but this is an odd choice performed … well, oddly. Byrne is entertaining as expected, doing his best Byrne dance and vocal stretching (while wearing a maestro’s tuxedo and white makeup, perhaps). Plus, the original is a haunting early example of pop electronic moodiness. But in Byrne and Arcade Fire’s rendition, it builds aimlessly toward a climax that never comes, as does the original, but live, it leaves one wondering, “Why?” –Kristofer Lenz

    52. “Back in Time”

    By Huey Lewis and the News

    Performed: August 11, 2014, at Rexall Place, Edmonton, AB

    For their stop in Edmonton, Arcade Fire paid homage to local son Michael J. Fox by performing this cover of the theme from Back to the Future. While Huey Lewis’ original stands tall among the pantheon of classic ’80s soundtrack songs, this version, while dutiful, trades in irony and little else. –Kristofer Lenz

    51. “The Guns of Brixton”

    By The Clash

    Performed: Four times in 2007, in England and once in California

    This one is tough. The original is an iconic proto-punk masterpiece, and Arcade Fire should get props for their respect and daring to rework it. But this eerie, echoing version loses the uptempo reggae riff and burning anger of the original, replaced by a peculiar selection of acoustic instruments and Will Butler shouting through a megaphone. A rare instance where we vastly prefer the original… –Kristofer Lenz

    50. “Axel F”

    By Harold Faltermeyer

    Performed: August 2, 2014, at The Forum, Inglewood, CA

    Los Angeles, full of laughable moments: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governance, ’80s hair metal, Scott Baio. On August 2nd, Arcade Fire added to that list with a hilarious cover of the instrumental synth pop classic “Axel F”. Besides being the theme song to Beverly Hills Cop, it actually served as a surprisingly groovy intro to “Normal Person”. Go figure. –Kevin McMahon

    49. “Bird Dog”

    By The Everly Brothers

    Performed: Five times in 2014

    A favorite of Phi Slamma Jamma, this #1 hit on the country charts from 1958 is one of the more peculiar choices the quasi-band debuted at late-night cover parties. The bouncy pop beat and call-and-response vocals lead to some dynamic exchanges between Will Butler and Richard Reed Perry. But ultimately? Just, no. –Kristofer Lenz

    48. “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”

    By Stevie Wonder

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    Performed: March 10, 2014, at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI

    With certain covers, the best a band can do is try to recreate the magic and perfection of the original. For their stop in the home of Motown, Arcade Fire did their damnedest to recreate the swinging soul of this Stevie Wonder classic. All the elements are there, from the pounding drums to the iconic horn riff; there is even percussive bell work. Tim Kingsbury does a commendable job of stretching his voice to sing like Stevie, but as they say, if you come at the king, you best not miss –Kristofer Lenz

    47. “Run for Your Life”

    By The Beatles

    Performed: Twice in 2014

    One of Phi Slamma Jamma’s earliest selections, this Beatles classic is in capable hands with Will Butler doing his best Lennon vocal, and Richard Reed Parry reinterpreting Lennon’s guitar work with just a touch more anger and distortion than the original. Still, it is an homage to spousal abuse, a subject considerably less charming now than when the moppet-headed Beatles first debuted. –Kristofer Lenz

    46. “Hot Hot Hot”

    By Buster Poindexter

    Performed: August 22, 2014, at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

    Clearly a fan of alter egos (see Phi Slamma Jamma), in retrospect, August 22nd’s cover of the 1987 smash “Hot Hot Hot” does not seem as outlandish. Joined by the New York Dolls frontman and not-so-secret identity of Buster Poindexter, David Johansen, it was about as authentic as it gets. The pop Caribbean-themed tune is both silly and fun, and hey, what is dark without light? It was a moment teetering on the edge of ridiculousness, but still comfortably in the satin pocket of good, clean fun. –Kevin McMahon

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    45. “Been Caught Stealing”

    By Jane’s Addiction

    Performed: August 1, 2014, at The Forum, Inglewood, CA

    Arcade Fire fused the Jane’s Addiction song with the intro to the Guns N’ Roses classic “Welcome to the Jungle” and their own “Here Comes the Night Time” to close out their 2014 performance at the Forum in Los Angeles, and in true Reflektor Tour fashion, all of the songs worked pretty well together. They managed to capture the loudness and bombast of the Jane’s Addiction original, and the whole string of musical interplay is high-energy and distinctive. Bonus: Win Butler performing “Been Caught Stealing” in his bobblehead. –Katherine Flynn

    44. “Chiquitita”

    By ABBA

    Performed: June 13, 2014, at Gröna Lund, Stockholm, Sweden

    Win Butler introduced this performance in Stockholm, Sweden, by saying, “We thought we’d play something you knew.” The following acoustic cover of ABBA’s “Chiquitita” incited cheers and a clap-along in the enthusiastic crowd, and while Butler’s voice perhaps wasn’t the best-suited to the high key of the song (originally performed by ABBA’s female vocalist Agnetha Faltskog), as with so many of their local covers, the gesture was really more about the band’s effort to learn the words, the guitar notes, and a little bit of local culture in the first place. –Katherine Flynn

    43. “Born on a Train”

    By Magnetic Fields

    Performed: Seven times in 2005 and 2007

    In this early studio recording, a winningly shy Win Butler attributes the band’s signing with Merge to hearing this song on the radio when he worked at a Boston shoe store. (Try not to linger to long on the uncanny image of young Win Butler sizing you for gym shoes). Faithful to the original, it is almost adorable hearing Butler singing deep from his throat in homage to Stephen Merritt’s iconic mumble. –Kristofer Lenz

    42. “Distortions”

    By Clinic

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    Performed: Twice in 2007

    It’s always a little more special when Arcade Fire cover a song by a contemporary (rather than a classic). This track from Clinic’s debut album, Internal Wrangler, is subdued and careful, elements Win preserves in his loving performance. The twisting melody and alternately dark and sweet lyrics make a clear case for why the band found inspiration in Clinic. –Kristofer Lenz

    41. “Kiss Off”

    By Violent Femmes

    Performed: Seven times in 2007 and 2008

    Another Neon Bible-era portrayal, “Kiss Off” is the angsty classic from the Violent Femmes. The eponymous 1983 album came largely out of singer-songwriter Gordon Gano’s high school days, thus its stripped down and at times ostentatious nature is perfectly explained and warranted. Arcade Fire fully absorbed the mental register that this song connotes. Using a megaphone for the vocals and during some performances smashing instruments, we see the “fuck it, and fuck you” nature of the track. It is the kind of song whose lyrics you shout and can’t help but sound whiney — a proclivity that has never taken a great leap for Mr. Butler. –Katherine Flynn

    40. “I Wanna Be Sedated”

    By The Ramones

    Performed: on August 23, 2014, at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

    Every music fan worth their salt knows the words to The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”, so when Arcade Fire covered it with the help of Marky Ramone at the Barclays Center during the Reflektor Tour, it was, naturally, a crowd favorite. The cover is faster than the original, if that’s even possible, and it’s a great ensemble piece, showcasing Ramone’s vocals and the band’s instrumental chops. It was undoubtedly a dream come true for The Ramones’ fans in the audience that night. –Katherine Flynn

    39. “London”

    By The Smiths


    Performed: June 7, 2014, at Earls Court, London, England, and June 19, 2014, at Michelbergerhotel, Berlin, Germany

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    Just a few months ago in June, we saw Arcade Fire perform two nights at the legendary Earls Court in London. During the second night, the group exhibited a cover of The Smiths’ aptly titled track “London”. “London” edges more toward the punk end of the indie spectrum than your usual track. The listener is entangled in the identity of the song’s subject per its second-person nature. It digs at the indecision of ending a relationship. Arcade Fire’s rendition shows their capability to enter the punk half of the indie bell curve as well. Butler’s vocals mimic Morrissey’s to a tee; it was again the type of performance that leaves the audience gushing after its completion. And a high-quality recording of the moment to boot! –Kevin McMahon

    38. “Who Do You Love?”

    By Bo Diddley

    Performed: August 26, 2014, at United Center, Chicago, IL and August 29, 2014 at Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON

    Some claim that Bo Diddley changed the course of rock music, and whether or not that’s true, no one’s arguing with the fact that he could make people’s feet move. The high-octane cover of “Who Do You Love?” at Chicago’s United Center is proof positive that even after all these years, none of the power has diminished in Diddley’s original tune. In the hands of Butler and co., it takes on a fast-paced punk quality that feels completely natural. It’s not better than the original, certainly, but AF must realize that it’s a tried-and-true crowd-pleaser. –Katherine Flynn

    37. “California Über Alles”

    By Dead Kennedys

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    Performed: August 4, 2014, at Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA, and August 5, 2014 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA

    Arcade Fire melded a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” with “California Uber Alles” by the Dead Kennedys in a 2014 performance at California’s Sleep Train Ampitheatre in Chula Vista, and imbued the latter with all the punk snarl one would expect. Win Butler also managed to capture lead singer Jello Biafra’s signature deadpan delivery, even though the onstage spectacle of the Reflektor Tour (bobbleheads, at least a dozen people onstage playing instruments) contrasts sharply with the Dead Kennedy’s stripped-down aesthetic. Overall, it’s one of the most effective covers of the Reflektor Tour, paying respect while adding a healthy dose of zaniness. –Katherine Flynn

    36. “I Feel It All”

    By Feist

    Performed: August 12, 2014, at Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB

    “I Feel It All” is classic Feist – a poppy, upbeat melody that sticks in your head and soulful vocals. Arcade Fire kicked it up a notch with their cover of the song during the Calgary date of their Reflektor Tour, a place where Leslie Feist once lived. Leading in with a partial cover of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend”, the band then transitions into a kind of “I Feel It All” on steroids, with a heavy beat and lots of electric guitar flourishes. For fans of both Arcade Fire and Feist, there’s nothing better than hearing Win and Regine harmonize while singing the Canadian songstresses’ lyrics. Hands down, this is my new YouTube go-to for when I’m having a shitty day. –Katherine Flynn

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    35. “Maps”

    By Yeah Yeah Yeahs

    Performed: September 9, 2005, at BBC Radio 1 Studios, London, England

    Hearing the lyrics to “Maps” sung in Regine Chassagne’s reedy voice instead of the low, mournful tone that Karen O assumes on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs classic initially takes a bit of getting used to, but once you accept the differences, it’s kinda fun to hear the song covered by one of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ early-aughts contemporaries. While this version doesn’t sound quite as polished as the original (and lacks Nick Zinner’s fierce and flawless guitar shredding in the bridge during the second half), it’s a lovely and fittingly quirky homage. –Katherine Flynn

    34. “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.”

    By The Clash

    Performed: Four times, twice in 2007 and twice in 2013

    The Clash do not often come to mind when one thinks of Arcade Fire, but the indie and punk worlds alike often pride themselves on their undetectable influences. When one thinks of musicians critical of American politics, however, the same appendage is not required. The song is a cut from the 1977 self-titled debut album, but was not released in the US until two years later. In the years since, it has seen a few poignant covers by Arcade Fire, this one emanating from the Roundhouse in London on November 12th of 2013. The version plays like a straight cover. Will Butler’s vocals do just fine, but there is nothing transcendent about the performance. The only mildly interesting bit is Win prancing around in another giant bobblehead, a fact which slightly loses its novelty with each display. –Kevin McMahon

    33. “Life on Mars?”

    By David Bowie

    Performed: September 8, 2005 at Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY

    Is it truly a cover when the band is backing the original composer and performer? Greater minds than mine can puzzle over that while I focus on this lovely, soulful rendition the band did with Bowie himself at the VH1 Fashion Rocks performance in 2005. –Kristofer Lenz

    32. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”

    By Cyndi Lauper

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    Performed: Three times, twice in 2011 and once in 2014.

    The band’s surprise 2011 performance at the Hotel Oloffson in earthquake-ravaged Port Au Prince, Haiti, included a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun” with Regine on lead vocals, and despite the terrible quality of this Esquire video, they rock it and are maybe having the most fun that any band has ever had covering this song. As one YouTube commenter notes, “Probably will never meet a woman as happy as Regine is. You lucky Win.” –Katherine Flynn

    31. “Heroes”

    By David Bowie

    Performed: Five times in 2008

    While fundraising for Obama back in 2008, Arcade Fire incorporated this Bowie classic into their live sets. Whether this was an overt “Mr. November-style” reference to the future president, we shall never know. Live recordings of the song aren’t great, so it is difficult to gauge the overall effect. The band is unfailingly energetic and engaged, but Win’s voice seems stretched beyond its natural boundaries trying to match Bowie’s highs and lows. –Kristofer Lenz

    30. “Still Ill”

    By The Smiths

    Performed: Seven times in 2007 and 2010

    While fundraising for Obama back in 2008, Arcade Fire incorporated this Bowie classic into their live sets. Arcade Fire last performed this Smiths cover in 2007, before the advent of excellent cell phone camera technology that makes this list (mostly) watchable. Without a fair representation, it is difficult to properly rate this cover. What we do know is that it was an early cover selection, appearing often on the Neon Bible tour and performed with more enthusiasm than Morrissey-esque energy. –Kristofer Lenz

    29. “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”

    By Talking Heads

    Performed: 21 times in 2004 and 2005

    Without question the best-traveled cover in the band’s repertoire; Arcade Fire performed this Talking Heads masterpiece a whopping 21 times between 2004-2005. The original track is one of those rare pieces of music that singularly personifies perfection. From start to finish, its textures and progression flow without the possibility of critique. Arcade Fire’s version is passable but in no way matches the grandeur of the original. Win Butler’s vocals add a pained rasp, which interestingly plays more to the tragic nature of the overall positively motivated song. However, Win’s voice is no match for the ethereal power of David Byrne, and Butler decidedly skips the first verse, further leading the cover into mediocrity. On the other hand, AF certainly has the respect of the indie icon — who has performed with the band multiple times — conceivably licensing the repeated, if marginal, attempts at one of the all-time great songs. –Kevin McMahon

    28. “Hey Tonight”

    By Creedence Clearwater Revival

    Performed: Four times in 2014

    “Hey Tonight” is pretty standard CCR: jangling guitars, a steady beat that you could walk down a dusty road to, and John Fogerty’s steamroller of a voice. Arcade Fire played a cover of the classic during their Reflektor Tour at Mountain View, California’s Shoreline Ampitheater, and while it certainly doesn’t top or stray too far from the original, there is a killer sax solo. While this isn’t the most polished of their covers on the tour, the band’s sheer enjoyment while playing the song is what really makes it sing. –Katherine Flynn

    27. “Helpless”

    By Neil Young

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    Performed: October 22 and 23, 2011, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA

    Technically, Arcade Fire are backing Neil Young on this cover of his CSNY classic, but Win, doing a remarkably true Young impression, trades vocals with the man himself to great effect. Lively backing harmonies and a full sound thanks to Arcade Fire’s deep arrangement make for a lovely, live rendition. If it was a true cover (not the band collaborating with Young at a charity event), it would be much higher on this list. But precedence must go to “true” Arcade Fire covers (an arbitrary standard I invented, just now). –Kristofer Lenz

    26. “Radio Free Europe”

    By R.E.M.

    Performed: May 2, 2014, at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood, Atlanta, GA

    Back in the ’80s, R.E.M. paved the road towards an alternative nation, a wonderful place that has since fostered juggernauts like Nirvana, Radiohead, and, yes, even Arcade Fire. So, it makes sense that Butler & co. returned the favor in May by covering their 1981 debut single, “Radio Free Europe”, in Atlanta, GA — a shy 70 miles from R.E.M.’s birthplace. Led by Tyler Kingsbury, the track’s anthemic ethos exploded right into Arcade Fire’s own tightly-wound canticle, “Here Comes the Night Time”. –Kevin McMahon

    25. “Gimme Some Truth”

    By John Lennon

    Performed: Four times in 2008

    Lennon made arguably one of the greatest solo albums ever with 1971’s Imagine. It’s thick with social commentary and outright shots taken directly at the powers that be. “Gimmie Some Truth” is one of those songs. Win Butler was certainly drawn to the outspoken nature of the tune, and as a result it nestled its way into the Neon Bible tour four times. This performance in Cleveland, Ohio, features supremely haunting synth textures and a full-bodied effort from Win Butler. He brings the expression of the original recording to the stage, and while it is by no means earth shattering, it is a memorable rendition just the same. –Kevin McMahon

    24. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”

    By Bob Dylan

    Performed: Five times in 2014

    Once more we have alter ego Phi Slamma Jamma. Win Butler is nowhere to be found, but Tyler Kingsbury’s impressive, folk-centric vocals more than satisfy. Like many Dylan tunes, this song has seen more covers than a 6th grade textbook. Arcade Fire is able to offer their penny in the fountain, and it makes a lovely splash. The track was penned during Dylan’s self-imposed seclusion following his motorcycle accident. Yet, despite its weightiness, the song occupies a relatively positive register. The performing members of AF do this song justice, with stunning three-part harmonies including Will, Kingsbury, and Parry. It also gives us a twinkle back to the more folk-driven days of the Arcade Fire’s past. Not necessarily inciting a longing to go back, just a nod of recognition for good days gone by. –Kevin McMahon

    23. “Alec Eiffel”

    By Pixies

    Performed: August 19, 2014, at Xfinity Center, Mansfield, MA

    Arcade Fire wore their early-’90s alt rock influence on their sleeves when selecting regional covers for the Reflektor Tour. One of the best is their dutiful cover of Pixies’ “Alec Eiffel”. While Tim Kingsbury doesn’t quite match the chaotic perfection of Joey Santiago’s original lead guitar work, the band still pours their hearts into this rousing rendition. –Kristofer Lenz

    22. “Brazil”

    By Ary Barrosso

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    Performed: Fourteen times in 2005

    Fans of the Terry Gilliam film of the same name are likely to remember the at first desultory, later shredding samba track that plays over the end credits, providing a memorable contrast to the dystopic final image. Originally written in 1939 by Ary Barrosso, the song is something like a national treasure in Brazil and has been covered countless times over the ensuing decades. A subdued rendition was added as a b-side to Funeral, and it made a number of appearances in the ensuing tour. –Kristofer Lenz

    21. “Heart of Glass”

    By Blondie

    Performed: April 9, 10, and 13 in 2014

    Let’s face it – Blondie’s 1979 hit “Heart of Glass” is a piece of pop perfection, and when combined with Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, with which it shares many sonic similarities, the hybrid has all the makings of an instant classic. The gang closed out week one of this year’s Coachella music festival with this performance and the help of Blondie front woman Debbie Harry, and while Harry visibly had trouble remembering the words to “Heart of Glass” at times, (she is, after all, 68,) her backing vocals on “Sprawl II” went over more smoothly. At the very least, it was a way for Arcade Fire to honor an influential musical predecessor and provide a connection between the two songs that, in hindsight, seems obvious. –Katherine Flynn

    20. “Born in the U.S.A.”

    By Bruce Springsteen

    Performed: January 21, 2009, at D.C. Armory, Washington, DC

    A surprise show of patriotism here for Win, a man who hails from the US but whose public image is decidedly Canadian. Springsteen’s 1984 rewrite of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been haunting pedestrians near tailgates and frat parties everyday since. Arcade Fire’s cover came during the same series of Obama support rallies as the (spoiler alert) upcoming Sam Cooke cover. The cover is actually quite pleasing — as is the original. “Born in the U.S.A.” is just another one of those examples of how context can affect art, and vice versa. –Kevin McMahon

    19. “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown”

    By Crazy Horse

    Performed: Six times in 2014

    The musical merry-go-round continues. Here we have guitarist Tim Kingsbury singing lead vocals in this cover of a cover. The song is originally from Crazy Horse’s self-titled 1971 release, but most associate it with the live recording placed on Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night. The song describes a trip to score some drugs, likely common for Neil and his cohorts at the time. The concept is actually quite comical in the context of Arcade Fire’s performance (Win Butler is sporting a giant plastic bust of the Pope). Kingsbury’s vocals are strong, and Will Butler’s harmonies help to match the Young-Whitten dynamic of the original. My apologies to the Catholic Church. –Katherine Flynn

    18. “I’ll Believe in Anything”

    By Wolf Parade

    Performed: August 30, 2014, at Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC

    Kindred Canadian indie rockers Wolf Parade would’ve been proud to witness Arcade Fire’s tributary cover of their most popular song. Closing out the tour in Montreal — the stomping ground from which both entities began — was a fitting close to the Reflektor circle. The two bands toured together during the Funeral era and have reportedly remained close. It is a humble return, one that lets out a noticeable sigh of relief for a well-traveled band come home for some much deserved rest. –Kevin McMahon

    17. “Poupée de cire, poupée de son”

    By Frances Gall, Serge Gainsbourg

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    Performed: Fifteen times in 2007

    It’s easy to imagine Win Butler and Régine Chassagne simply wishing they could transport back in time and be the first to write and record this ripping 1960s French art-pop masterpiece. Composed by Serge Gainsbourg and performed by Frances Gall, the song won the Eurovision song contest in 1965. Its shredding guitar, breathless female vocals, and hyper self-aware lyrics made it one of the first “regional” covers, as the band played it regularly on the European leg of the Neon Bible tour. –Kristofer Lenz

    16. “The Cutter”

    By Echo and the Bunnymen

    Performed: June 6, 2014, at Earls Court, London, England

    Having access to a wide library of famous guests certainly makes choosing cover songs more fun. Another guest during the two-night stretch at London’s Earls Court was none other than Ian McCulloch himself. Echo & the Bunnymen’s frontman performed a duet of 1983’s hit “The Cutter”. Writhing with arcane lyrics, the listener is forced to take each line or phrase as a relatively stand-alone statement. This lack of a coherent narrative draws us in to the individual statements, “spare us the cutter” and “not just another drop in the ocean” being the easiest to decipher. Wonderfully abstract, its 2014 incarnation showed two musicians with the same lyrical penchant together, harmoniously causing meaning seekers to rub their temples in frustration. –Kevin McMahon

    15. “Roll Over Beethoven”

    By Chuck Berry

    Performed: April 27, 2014, at Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO

    Likely Berry’s most famous song — and also one of the most covered — 1956’s “Roll over Beethoven” is a standard and a baseline in rock and roll. In late April, as the band cruised through St. Louis, they decided it would be ample time to cover a song by its native son. Win Butler slipped into his most Berry-esque red sport coat for the occasion and gave the crowd a taste of some good, old-fashioned rock and roll. He captured the essence of Berry’s high-energy, heavy-winded vocals, shuffling along as if it came out of a jukebox — one with a five-piece horn section as accompaniment. –Kevin McMahon

    14. “Helter Skelter”

    By The Beatles

    Performed: Six times in 2014

    One more track that made its rounds during the Reflektor Tour, “Helter Skelter” is rock and roll to the bone. The song is constantly hailed as an inspiration for the entire metal genre, and thus it has inspired countless covers. Arcade Fire chose to do so several times under the moniker Phi Slamma Jamma — name borrowed from the 1982-1983 University of Houston basketball team. Phi Slamma Jamma’s version features Will Butler at the helm, and his chops are surprisingly adequate in capturing the energy of Sir Paul. Its conception under Phi Slamma Jamma is certainly an outlier in the Arrade Fire chart of covers, but one that works very well in an in-the-pocket sort of way. The kind of song that fits in a performance snugly without requiring any great leaps in arrangement, only the talent to execute. –Kevin McMahon

    13. “State Trooper”

    By Bruce Springsteen

    Performed: Nine times in 2005 and 2007

    Arcade Fire have covered “State Trooper” both with and without Bruuuuuce, and it was one of the earliest covers that they performed live back at London’s Alexandra Palace in 2007. The love fest between the veteran rocker and Arcade Fire is no secret, and as far as covers go, “State Trooper” is both uniquely Arcade Fire and true to the original. Butler inserts what appears to be a commentary about the local television and/or radio in London during the song’s “talk, talk, talk,” verse, talking about “fucking live roulette” that you can call in and play. –Katherine Flynn

    12. “Controversy”

    By Prince

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    Performed: Eleven times in 2014

    One of the talking heads (see what I did there) Win Butler donned during the 2014 Reflektor Tour was Prince. The 1981 smash “Controversy” has been performed 11 times throughout the tour to much acclaim. “Controversy”, both the song and album of the same name, saw Prince take on issues in his life and the hot buttons of the day. “Am I straight or gay?/ Do I believe in God?/ Controversy.” All underpinned with a layer of ’80s sex funk. AF’s version captures the crisp funk rhythm with the grace of a band now riding on a decade of performing together. Butler once again shies away from the higher octaves Prince reaches with ease, but the song’s quality remains intact. It works especially well as the antecedent meandering that leads the band into “Here Comes the Night Time”. –Kevin McMahon

    11. “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World”

    By The Ramones

    Performed: Nine times in 2013 and 2014

    The members of Phi Slamma Jamma are not shy about being old-school fans of The Ramones. Their devotion to the early punk rockers can be seen in the enthusiasm with which they recreate the chugging guitar and pounding percussion while singing with the subtle nuance of a fan who has heard the song countless times. This romance-via-Ramones track is no exception, as Will, Richard, and Tim shred away in doting homage. –Kristofer Lenz

    10. “All the Umbrellas in London”

    By Magnetic Fields

    Performed: February 7, 2008 at Namba Hatch, Osaka, Japan and February 11, 2008 at Shinkiba Studio Coast, Tokyo, Japan

    This performance was taken from a show in Tokyo in February of ’08. The fans are noticeably excited by the mention of Tokyo in the lyrics. One would speculate that although that fact may have played a small role in its selection, Win’s mood was more the director. Born from the Magnetic Field’s 1995 release Get Lost, “All the Umbrellas in London” is a song about withdrawal, isolation, and clinical depression. Stephin Merrit’s baritone register drones over a decidedly ’80s synth drumbeat. The tune is morose, and the occasional flat tone with which Merrit sings gives a sense of purposeful disconnect to the emotion behind it.

    Arcade Fire’s cover comes off as a little less disconnected. Win’s slightly higher voice stays clear of dissonance and maintains a pained emotional center. Régine Chassange’s harmonies supplement the passion nicely. The cover could be construed to portray the kind of surrounded isolation many artists feel on extended international tours (think Meeting People Is Easy). It’s a song that connects on many levels, crystalized by the brief hush as the band fades to silence. –Kevin McMahon

    9. “Five Years”

    By David Bowie

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    Performed: Seven times in 2005

    After performing the song with David Bowie at the VH1 Fashion Rocks event, Arcade Fire incorporated this opening track from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars into their live sets in 2005. While the version they played with Bowie is lovely, for this collection of covers we’ve selected a well-recorded version of the band alone. (Once he finds the mic) Win’s quavering voice sound perfect expressing the anxiety and drama of 1970s Bowie reflecting on the predicted decline and fall of civilization. –Kristofer Lenz

    8. “Waiting Room”

    By Fugazi

    Performed: August 17, 2014, at Verizon Center, Washington, DC

    Upon arriving in Washington D.C., Arcade Fire had a multitude of choices to select from for a regionally appropriate song. The local heads were no doubt delighted to hear the opening chords of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room”, the opening track of the legendary band’s debut album. The original is substantially harder than the average Arcade Fire song, making it a wonderful treat to see the Butlers et al. putting their all into the shouted punk chorus. With no hint of ironic twist, this is pure homage to a surprising influence. –Kristofer Lenz

    7. “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”

    By The Ramones

    Performed: Seven times in 2014

    Arcade Fire have covered this Ramones standard for years, but no moment has been better than when original Ramone, Marky Ramone, accompanied the band on drums in his hometown of New York City. The resulting cover is fast, fearless, and true. –Kristofer Lenz

    6. “A Change Is Gonna Come”

    By Sam Cooke

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    Performed: Four times in Ohio in 2008

    One would be hard-pressed to find two less comparable vocal stylings than those of Sam Cooke and Win Butler. Nevertheless, in 2008, during Barrack Obama’s historic presidential campaign, the moment fit. Win Butler was an avid supporter of Obama and played shows to benefit the president-to-be. One of those performances graced us with a wonderfully reimagined version of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come”. Butler’s version of the song works amazingly well. It borrows from the song’s soul roots with an unavoidably indie spin. Luckily, instead of coming off as cultural appropriation, it listens as a hopeful tribute to a man whom eight years later still inspires millions. –Kevin McMahon

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