Monday, November 19, 2007

Gig Review: Arcade Fire

"This isn't fucking Sunday School," bellowed Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler as he took to the stage in London's chilly Alexandra Palace last night.

But he's wrong. If the Arcade Fire's stage show reminds you of anything, it’s a completely ramshackle church band - where every member of the congregation who has ever seen or held an instrument is allowed to take part in a mass worship.

There's something of a missionary zeal to their performance, too. The 10-piece band rattle through the epic, baroque rock of songs like No Cars Go and Laika with a rare intensity - seemingly possessed by the spirits. Except, perhaps, for multi-instrumentalist William Butler whose frantic flailing suggests an in-progress exorcism.

When a band is this wrapped up in their performance, the danger is that they fail to communicate the passion beyond the front of the stage. The Arcade Fire do suffer from this occasionally - most noticeably when Win's microphone fails during My Body Is A Cage - but for the majority of the concert the crowd was swept up in the fervour.

The music even appeared to heal the lame, as one audience-member held their crutches aloft and danced during the barnstorming set-closer Wake Up.

Having graduated to the major league with second album Neon Bible, the band have lost some of the ragged edges that marked their early concerts. The big numbers - Keep The Car Running, Intervention - are replicated almost note-for-note, and the band failed to indulge in their famed practice of abandoning the concert hall to play on the street. This was perhaps advisable, given the sub-arctic conditions outside (this is the first indoor gig I've been to where everyone was wearing a coat).

In any case, the cavernous environs of Ally Pally were perfectly suited to the music, with deep reverb adding bombast to the band's already epic sound. And, I suspect, covering the odd bum note...

Last night's show marked the band's penultimate European date in support of Neon Bible before they retire to Montreal to channel the spirits and divine their third album.

If they continue on this form, they're bound to win thousands more converts to their peculiar religion.

Black Mirror
Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Black Wave / Bad Vibrations
My Body Is A Cage
Neon Bible
Headlights Look Like Diamonds
The Well And The Lighthouse
Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)
Antichrist Television Blues
Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (Lies)

Keep The Car Running
Wake Up

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