Arcade Fire, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews
Arcade Fire, O2 Arena
Arcade Fire, O2 Arena
An infectious outpouring of emotion and energy from the Montreal group
One of the great pleasures of watching live music lies in witnessing the joy that people get from making it; to experience a great live band in their prime, to see them interacting with each other, feeding off each other, pushing each other on, is a marvellous thing. Arcade Fire are like that: this show, the second of two nights in London from the Montreal band, was an infectious outpouring of feverish emotion and raw energy. I really don’t think any of them are virtuoso musicians, but there was a cohesiveness, a sense of collective endeavour from the eight-strong ensemble, that made them compelling to watch. They are a proper group.
These were the biggest shows the band have played in the UK on their own behalf (though they’ve headlined at festivals), and I was reminded, once more, that although venues such as this are often derided as vast, cavernous, soulless corporate hell-holes, when a band such as Arcade Fire are in full flight and 18,000 fans are bursting their lungs singing along with them, the noise swirling around the walls and bouncing off the roof, there really is nothing like it.
The show got off to a bit of a slow start, but after two songs, lead singer Win Butler seized the evening by the scruff of the neck. Rolling up his sleeves in a manner that brought to mind Bruce Springsteen at one of his “let’s get to work” moments, he urged the audience to get on their feet, yelled “Let’s do it!” and launched the band into “No Cars Go”. Lift-off. (Later in the show Butler used the old “One, two, three, four!” introductory gambit, which also brought Springsteen to mind; Arcade Fire have an awfully long way to go to match The Boss’s ferocious work ethic – when he was their age he was playing three to four-hour shows – but there are strong similarities between the two acts, especially their quasi-religious fervour, their sense of suburban hunger and desperation, their absolute sincerity, and the sheer group-ness of their ensembles.)
What also impressed me was the versatility of these players. Butler himself played guitar, piano and sang, while his wife Régine Chassagne played accordion, drums and keyboards, as well as singing. The rest of the band swapped instruments almost willy-nilly, while at one point one of the keyboard players employed the unorthodox method of playing his instrument by hitting it with a drumstick, out of sheer exuberance. And although it can’t be easy to play the fiddle while leaping like a Thomson’s gazelle, both violinists managed it without missing a beat.
Terrific though it is, I can’t say that any of the songs from their recent The Suburbs album have become instant live classics, although the title track was jaunty and stompy; the big moments here came from the back catalogue, songs that have become ritualised mass celebrations, a chance for the fans to sing and holler. “Intervention” was huge and churchy, “Keep the Car Running” was remorseless, breathless; ditto "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)".
Of course, they saved the big one until last: “Wake Up” was the epic singalong song of the night, a moment of collective celebration and catharsis. And the crowd carried on singing it long after the band had left the stage; in fact, some were still singing it as we queued to get into the Tube station. Which brings me back to that man again; I don’t want to labour the point, but the only other time I’ve heard this happen was after a Bruce Springsteen concert.
Watch Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" video:
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