Thursday, July 8, 2010

Getting sweaty with Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire at the Hackney Empire

It's a sign of a great gig when you emerge drenched in sweat (your own and other people's) and you don't care one jot.

And that's exactly what happened to me last night, as Arcade Fire broke three years of silence with a gig at the Hackney Empire. The audience was so pleased to have them back that they shouted and bounced along to every song in the 18-track set, even though eight of them were brand new.

Eccentric and intense, the band always come across like they're playing a worship service on the eve of the apocalypse. Their songs shake and reverberate in the manner of a child being exorcised of a pernicious demon. You half expect their between-song banter to be spoken in tongues.

But no. When he talked to the crowd, a genial Win Butler actually joked about his soundman, who apparently grew up "half a mile away" from the venue, and gently mocked England's World Cup performance.

His new songs sound more relaxed, too. The post-millennial angst has been dialled down, and the bombastic sturm and drang channelled into straightforward, driving rock riffs. Modern Man and new single We Used To Wait One are direct and radio-friendly.

That's not to say Arcade Fire have suddenly become Coldplay - they're too dramatic and nuanced for that - but these sound like songs for the open road, rather than the end of days.

Arcade Fire at the Hackney Empire

Sadly, though, they've largely abandoned the huge, uplifting "woah-oh" chants that made their old material so much fun to sing along to.

The show was more professional and focused, too. The light show and video installations were spectacular and the band's prediliction for swapping instruments between every song was more business-like, with short, feedback-fuelled pauses filling in gaps that were once minutes long.

None of this should suggest that the eight-piece have become all corporate and respectable.

Regine Chassagne was dressed as a lemon fairy cupcake, while guitarist Richard Reed-Perry wore a fetching white babygro, set off by realistic stab wounds and fake blood. Founder member William Butler, meanwhile, need not fear any changes to his Wikipedia biography, which describes him as being "known for his spontaneity and antics during performances".

The show came to a head with a rousing, four-song encore: Crown Of Love, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Keep The Car Running and Wake Up. By the last track, the 1,500-strong audience were drowning out the band.

If Arcade Fire can translate that passion to the charts, their new album could finally herald the big breakthrough they've seemed to be on the cusp of for the last five years.

Ready To Start
Modern Man
No Cars Go
Empty Room
The Suburbs
Suburban War
We Used To Wait
Power Out
Month of May

Crown Of Love
Keep The Car Running
Wake Up

We Used To Wait

The Suburbs

Month Of May

PS: I wrote a brief news piece over on the BBC website, if you want to read more.

Labels: , , ,

<< Home

Newer Posts ::: Older Posts

© 2014 Discopop Directory | Contact | Go to the homepage