Although their very existence has been met with universal critical acclaim and adoration, one opposite view of the Bruce Springsteen-approved Arcade Fire's popularity, particularly on this side of the Atlantic, is that they're the best alternative amidst a slim selection.
Might they, in other words, just seem like the best band of the moment because no one else is as good?
This first night of their latest UK tour saw the Montreal folk-pop orchestra installed near the very top of the contemporary rock hierarchy. With the around-10,000 capacity SECC sold out for their visit, they've clearly graduated from being a large band to a truly massive one.
Fortunately their show has been upgraded to incorporate the requisite amount of visual sparkle, although there's always going to be something or someone to rest your eyes upon – even from a distance – when a band has 10 members.
To compare Arcade Fire with contemporaries from these shores is like night and day. Take acts such as the Kaiser Chiefs or Razorlight, who could also sell out such a space. Arcade Fire move into areas of sonic texture and nuance the likes of which counterparts could barely imagine. To witness the ever-expanding-in-popularity Canadians live is to know that they will be successful in any era, not just amidst the tepid mainstream flow they find themselves swimming up-river against. They promise enduring longevity in their career where others threaten diminishing returns sooner or later. As the show progresses, however, you might find your thoughts wandering from pleasure that they've found such mass acceptance to speculation that they might actually become a band we start referring to as "era-defining".
Their style is timeless, a brand of gothic (North) Americana, which manifests itself throughout everything. They dress like Victorian gentleman and ladies at rest, and singer Win Butler's Canadian country accent twangs with a rootsy quality in speech and in song. Even the live-action video backdrops, which are projected on to five small round screens and a large circular centre-piece, are like a silent film shot through a pinhole camera.
Butler is taciturn in conversation saying very little until the obligatory note of thanks at the end, but dynamic and explosive as a vocalist (much like his wife, Regine Chassagne, restless and sprightly as keyboard player, backing singer and occasional drummer). The pace and intensity of their 90-minute set builds with an irresistible fury, from the taut "Black Mirror" and celebratory "Keep The Car Running", to the ethereal but strongly defined "No Cars Go".
For a brief period in the middle of the set, Butler retires to the large church organ towering at the rear of the stage, and then it's full-tilt for the horizon. Butler's hollered, nerve-jangling call that he's "A God-fearing man" on Antichrist Television Blues gives way to a shrieking television evangelist's appearance on the large screen, and then on into a roaring version of "Power Out".
As a finale, the trilogy of "Rebellion", "Intervention" and "Wake Up" are as energising and redemptive a passage as any other rock concert could even hope to incorporate this year.
Hopefully Arcade Fire will sustain the momentum.Reuse content