Arcade Fire Earl's Court gig review: Fan favourites bring out a few surprises to fill the gaps between 'Funeral' classics
Saturday 07 June 2014
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.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger
- 2 Two-year-old says goodbye to bin man best friend
- 3 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Bob Dylan: How the Isle of Wight festival managed to steal the voice of a generation from Woodstock
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
Star Wars 7: Andy Serkis character revealed as Supreme Leader Snoke
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote