First Night: Arcade Fire, O2 ARena, London
Fire burns bright as band of many talents step up to the big stage
Thursday 02 December 2010
over the past few years, I've seen Arcade Fire in a small church, and in a packed Hackney Empire, and now suddenly they're bounding onstage at the O2 Arena as if born to the role.
Their ascension has been extraordinarily rapid, and is all the more surprising for the peculiarity of their music, which incorporates a bewildering panoply of strings and things. The significant thing, though, is that they don't seem at all out of place here. As an octet, they're one of the few bands not physically dwarfed by a stage this size and the same applies to their sound.
The O2, then, suits them well: here, their customary on-stage energy seems more natural, like a herd of animals finally released into the wild to gambol free again. The show bounded out of the blocks with "Ready To Start", the infectious, lolloping boogie from The Suburbs. They keep the momentum building with "Keep The Car Running", conjuring a whirligig noise from mandolin, hurdy-gurdy, violins and frantically hammered piano, and belting out the choruses with a cult-like fervour. While most rock bands bring a gang mentality to music, there's more of a family feeling about Arcade Fire, and like big families, the members have to be more extroverted to get noticed.
Not that frontman Win Butler need worry. Tall and thin and wielding the intellectual pop charisma of a David Byrne, he commands the stage from the start, establishing an easy rapport with approving comments about the snowy weather and our demonstrating students.
The set is drawn mostly from The Suburbs and Funeral albums, peppered with a few choice cuts from Neon Bible, such as the stirring "No Cars Go". But there's barely a track here that doesn't sound like a call to arms: as anthems of alienation go, these are as uplifting as they come. "Here's a song about growing up in Houston, Texas," says Butler, introducing "The Suburbs" itself, "but it might as well be London, England – we got the same shit everywhere now."
It's this acknowledgement of our collective isolation which may be what attracts so many to Arcade Fire. Which is why it's so ironic to find this most cultish and individual-sounding of groups selling out the O2 Arena; and why it's so heartening that they manage to shrink the cavernous space to more human size, and connect with this huge audience as if talking to each of us alone.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 4 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, review: Revolution still seems far off
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'