Why this gig?
Arcade Fire rather crept up on me. I used to think that I didn’t like them. I subconsciously filed them away with bands like Muse and Coldplay – dull stadium rock that I had no interest in. Then, in 2010, they released The Wilderness Downtown – an interactive web site that nicely demonstrated what you could do with the (then fledgling) HTML5. Like many geeks I watched the video several times and, while I was doing that, the song “We Used To Wait” firmly embedded itself in my head.
So I went back and investigated the band further. Only to find that some of their songs (“Rebellion (Lies)”, “Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)” and “No Cars Go”) were songs that I already knew and loved – I had just never bothered to find out who they were by.
At that point I became a fan. It was then just a case of waiting for their next London dates. And this is it.
Support was from Lorde who I had seen two nights previously. Earls Court is a rather different venue to the Shepherds Bush Empire and it’s always harder when you’re not playing to your own fans. I thought she did really well, but it was obvious that many of the people around me weren’t particularly impressed.
Arcade Fire’s latest album, Reflektor, has been out for over six months, so its material is well known to all of the band’s fans. So it’s no real surprise that they open with the title track or that it sends the crowd wild.
There’s a lot going on on the stage. There are six members of the band but there are a large number of extra musicians playing with them. After pretty much every song there’s big reshuffle as half of the people on stage move to a different instrument.
The set list is a good sampler of the band’s material. It’s heavily weighted towards Reflektor and there’s a little less from Neon Bible than I would have liked (only “Intervention” and “No Cars Go”) but it just shows how their four albums are packed with great songs.
A lot of work has gone into the staging. There’s always something interesting to watch. There’s a smaller stage in the middle of the floor and that’s used to good effect many times. A man covered in mirrors (a Reflektor man, I suppose) dances on it. A troup of dancers use it during “We Exist”. The most effective use is when Régine Chassagne appears on it to sing “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” with Win Butler (who remains on the main stage). It’s a great interpretation of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The only slight flaw in the plan is that Régine then has to dash through underground tunnels in order to get back to the main stage in time to sing “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”.
And that’s the end of the main set. But while we’re waiting for the band to return for the encore we are entertained by a fake band with large heads miming to The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”. The encore consists of a couple more songs from Reflektor which separated by a cover of The Smiths’ “London” (which Win sings wearing a rubber mask of the Queen – we must be grateful that the Daily Mail didn’t find that out) and a rousing finale of “Wake Up”.
I was partly right in my initial assumptions. Arcade Fire are a stadium band. But they put a lot of thought and effort into their shows. I’ll definitely be seeing them again in the future.
The set list is on Setlist.fm.
- Evening Standard (from the previous night’s show – hence the mention of Ian McCullough)
- Financial Times (also from the previous night)