Arcade Fire Earl's Court gig review: Fan favourites bring out a few surprises to fill the gaps between 'Funeral' classics


Few gig reviews require spoiler alerts. But then few bands take over a huge arena in style quite like this.

Here, turning a massive building that feels more like an aircraft hangar than a concert venue - a space more suited for hosting zeppelins than rock bands - into one vast sea of outstretched arms above mouths open wide, bellowing another chorus, is some accomplishment. Lead singer Win Butler bemoans the fact Earl’s Court is about to be torn down and replaced with “condos”, but it’s a tough place to play. Arcade Fire know they can’t do it simply with big songs beneath big lights if they’re to reach out to all of us in a room this... big. They need some surprises too.

Ok, some key aspects of their show are predictable enough. Four albums into their careers, it’s still the tracks from their first, Funeral, that make their devotional fans clap and cheer and cry like no others can quite manage. Early on, the now familiar crescendo that forms the cacophonous segue between Power Out and Rebellion hits us - like it always does - with the excitement of hearing that emerging drum beat. And drizzling the setlist with Tunnels, Laika and Haiti too means there’s never a long wait for a fan favourite.

Equally, however, when the uninspiring Flashbulb Eyes is aired as their second song of the night - following an ominously bass-heavy rumble from opening track Reflektor - any prediction that Arcade Fire’s new songs will prove too cold and difficult to love seems likely to be proved correct.

So what turns the night into a triumph - rather than merely moments of nostalgic euphoria over songs that we first heard ten years ago, interspersed with the need for patience while they play the new stuff?

There’s the band’s unyielding energy and their musicianship. But what really keeps us on edge is how we’re kept guessing. First Ian McCulloch appears for a cover of Echo & The Bunnymen's The Cutter. Then a huge set of lights is lowered from the ceiling high above to within just a few feet of the crowd’s heads, to create a disco dancefloor effect that feels perfect for the Michael Jackson-esque groove of We Exist. Then a second stage is raised amid the crowd for dancers and a human disco ball, and then bandmate Régine Chassagne herself suddenly appears up there to sing across the crowd to Win, backed by a bunch of skeletons. We don't know where to look. It keeps us not just engaged with the lesser-loved material, but wowed by it. And then there’s the showers of shiny confetti. So, so much sparkly confetti. It just keeps on coming.

Like a hall of mirrors, it’s disorientating, but delightfully so. Gigs this size aren’t just about the music. This was an experience. And yes, the music was excellent too. After the chants of Wake Up provide a final uproarious celebration, people are literally dancing out of the venue.

Headlining Glastonbury later in June will be a different challenge altogether for Arcade Fire. They’ll have just a single stage to play with, fewer props, and the chances of rain soddening their sparkly outfits will be high. But here we saw the showmanship, the ambition and the imagination that they’ll need to win over Worthy Farm.

On a final note: in place of McCulloch, might there be a similar role to play at Glastonbury for another of the band's previous collaborators and biggest fans, David Bowie? We can but wish.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

    Caught in the web of legal imperialism

    The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert