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.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: Luke Skywalker's bionic hand sends fans into a frenzy
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
General Election 2015: Polish prince challenges Nigel Farage to a duel over immigration question