Arcade Fire tours are very rare indeed. This is their first visit to London in 4 years (apart from a very short stint as the Reflektors last year) so anticipation for this visit to co-incide with last years Reflektor album, their fourth, was huge. These 2 nights at Earls Court may be seen by some as a Glastonbury warm up but you do not fill that venue on a warm up premise alone. So the question that many wanted to know was:
Are Arcade Fire ready for Glastonbury?
If you have never been before, earls court is vast. I mean seriously huge. Sadly if you have never experienced anything there then your chances are almost over as it is due to be demolished soon. The band, however, utilised this space brilliantly, all over the arena were lighting rigs, glitter balls and speakers, plenty of speakers. Once criticism often aimed at the venue is the sound suffers from the vastness of the place. But Arcade Fire seemed to resolve this by using the space so well. In fact a massive discotheque would best describe what they did with the place.
It was also rammed, 20000 people all in this one cavernous hanger and all in celebration. Many had taken to dressing formally or in fancy dress (I wouldn’t want to have been Mr Blobby in the heat of the place!) but everyone was in great spirits. Support act Owen Pallet kept us entertained alongside the nights DJ as everything on stage was being prepared behind an ominous black curtain.
Then the lights went out and on a stage 3/4 of the way to the back of the hall a series of spotlights appeared and this guy dressed head to toe in reflective glass,suit appeared the lights shining off him around the arsenal he even had a reflective mirror camera! At this point he introduced the band, the curtain fell and Arcade Fire kicked in to Reflektor.
What followed was breathless, they simply went for one song to the next without pausing for breath. Utilising their entire back catalogue (which for a band with no fillers is dead handy) they charged through great song after great song. With each song came numerous set, lighting and even instrument changes. All done at pace. For second track Flashbulb Eyes, the entire lighting rig above the stage (made up on numerous six sided reflective glass panels) was lowered just above the band. The crowd responded well to the opening numbers but really got going when Neighbourhood #3 (power out) and the simply sublime Rebellion (Lies) both from debut album Funeral kicked in. What a euphoric feeling being part of the gathering throng.
After Joan Of Arc, came a superb version of Rococo which built up to a brilliant climax. Only then Did Win finally stop for a moment to talk to the crowd, and to dedicate the next song to the Venue which he pointed out would soon be condos, ‘hope they are cheap’ he quipped. A powerful rendition of the Suburbs followed.
It just didn’t stop, Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) one of two of my personal favourites was next. Win then told the crowd how he had grown up influenced by British music and how much he loved Echo and the Bunnymen. At which point he invited Ian McCulloch on stage to show the band how to do it properly. A breathless version of The Curter followed – now that was a special moment indeed!
If Tunnels has a rival for my favourite Arcade Fire song then I was in luck. No Cars Go is not only one of their best, it is one of THE best records I have heard. Tonight it did not disappoint. Brilliant, just brilliant.
For We Exist, the B stage was utilised again as a series of dancers performed a choreographed routine whilst the band played on the main stage. Win then broke into the opening of My Body Is A Cage (the only other tune from the cruelly overlooked Neon Bible tonight) this transformed into Afterlife again, performed perfectly.
All of this continued with a constantly changing backdrop, lighting both on stage and in the audience, the lighting rigs above the crowd were raised and lowered for effect. The ultimate use of the venue followed next. As It’s Never Over began, Regine was noticeable by her absence on stage. All was explained moments later when the B stage raised about 20 feet in the air and here she was on it with dancers duetting with Win on the main stage. Within moments of that finishing, she re-appeared on the main stage for Sprawl to bring the main set to a close.
This wasn’t over though, the Reflektor main appeared on the B stage and he was accompanied by a Mariachi Band wearing Paper Mâché heads of the band. They broke into a Mariachi version of Bitter Sweet Symphony to distract the crowd from the main stage where the band reappeared. Won’t easing the mariachi band that Mick Jagger would want £100,000 for that song. The two bands momentarily competed for the sound and audience attention before Arcade Fire won out with Normal Person.
Just two songs were left but what a couple. The outstanding Here Comes The Night with its Haitian roots gave a Caribbean feel until the song moves on in the second half. As Win hit the ‘time’ to herald this part the entire venue exploded with streamers and cuttings of reflective paper and air cannons. The lights went up and we had 20,000 people having a carnival. What a moment.
The band had one thing left to close the night, a stirring sing along of Wake Up. Perfect end to a simply perfect night. In all honesty one of the 5 best gigs I’ve seen!
So the question Are Arcade Fire ready for Glastonbury? Actually perhaps the question should really be ‘Is Glastonbury ready for Arcade Fire?’ Either way, if you are free on the night of the 27th June get the TV on, turn it up and have a party.
Setlist of the night
‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’
‘Joan Of Arc’
‘Ready To Start’
‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’
‘Neighborhood #2 (Laika)’
‘No Cars Go’
‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus’