MANSFIELD — “What the hell is this? What’s going on here?”
Those were the first words out of Win Butler’s mouth as his band, Arcade Fire, took the stage at the Xfinity Center on Tuesday night. An illusion had just been cast, as mysterious figures walked out wearing oversized papier-mache heads created in the band’s likeness, rendering them human bobbleheads. They were imposters.
Butler was smiling when he set the record straight, a winking admission that he and his cohorts are masters of playful deception. They have never been solely about the music, which was morphed and mutated over the years from brawny indie rock to sly interpolations of New Wave and disco. They are meticulous makers of an alternate universe where the visuals are on par with the music.
Even the ticket stub was a reminder that this was not your standard rock show: “Formal Attire/Costume,” it read, and several fans were happy to oblige in suits and streaks of makeup around their eyes.
Arcade Fire is particularly adept at building and sustaining a groove, making every song feel like an essential part of the whole. At the Xfinity Center, the band dynamic had a similarly egalitarian approach, with each member playing exactly what was needed, from Richard Reed Parry’s ricocheting guitar lines on “We Used to Wait” to Régine Chassagne’s accordion on “No Cars Go.” She later reveled in the sensuality of “Haiti,” an ode to her heritage.
Every song had its own distinct vibe, veering from the skeletal beauty of “The Suburbs” to the narcotic disco of “Reflektor,” the title track from their latest album. “Here Comes the Night Time” ramped up to a fever pitch as confetti coated the crowd.
As they have done in other cities, Arcade Fire paid homage to its surroundings. “We wrote this song about Boston. It’s called “Less Than a Feeling,” Butler joked as Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” played over the PA.
The band, donning those giant papier-mache heads, then went into a live rendition of the Pixies’ “Alec Eiffel.”
Their choice of opening acts mirrored both sides of their new album, too.
Debo Band, an Ethiopian funk band based in Jamaica Plain, entertained a small but rapt crowd on a makeshift stage near the entrance. Antibalas held court with its propulsive Afrobeat, while Dan Deacon parted the mosh pit into a massive circle for a dance-off. Like the headliners, he used his console to create songs that darted about wildly, except his were giddy like Saturday morning cartoons — on acid.James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed.