Arcade Fire, Hyde Park, London
Monday 04 July 2011
On recent tours, Win Butler has wondered how his band can fill arenas despite having no hits. On this evidence, while they may not dominate the charts in the manner of Adele or Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire brim over with hummable tunes.
That, in a nutshell, is key to the success of their largest UK date yet. The Montreal group are clearly conscientious, politicised and independent-minded, but the reason they are dear to (as evidenced here) nouveau punks and hipsters in oversized shades alike, is the immediacy of their music.
No matter how many layers of sound the eight-piece conjure on a variety of instruments, including Régine Chassagne's inaudible hurdy-gurdy, an insistent hook usually carries all before it. And that invariably comes propelled by a forceful rhythm, where all available hands are banging and shaking percussion while the performers multi-task on keyboards or vocals.
With Butler beaming from the start as he looks back at a victorious year, even the bleak "Intervention" from glum second album, Neon Bible, has a celebratory air. Its successor, The Suburbs, has cemented Arcade Fire's place as outsiders' spokespeople, but with a warmer personality that has won them both a Grammy and a Brit. Tonight's opening numbers – "Ready to Start", "Wake Up" and "No Cars Go" – cover each release to date and all are greeted as old friends as the vast crowd urge the group on.
Even the relatively obscure "Haiti", from their debut album, Funeral – a reminder that Chassagne linked the group to the island before its devastating earthquake – encourages affectionate accompaniment from the crowd to her Björkish vocals. Indeed, the crowd form an integral part of a group already collectivist in its style, their participation making up for an underpowered sound that means the sinister undertones of "Rococo" waft gently away.
Elsewhere, the group rescue their more considered side, with Butler especially soulful on the current album's title track, before he adopts a sterner expression for a frenzied run through the fuzzpop of "Month of May". Not that the ebullient frontman can hide his grin for long. Midsong, he makes a dig at the neighbourhood's privileged residents, but his closing words are more noteworthy: "We'll see you in a couple of years." That is a long time to be deprived of such a life-affirming group.
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