Saturday, June 7, 2014

Review: Arcade Fire at Earl's Court

"We'd like to play this song for Earls Court," says Win Butler, as he plays the opening chords of The Suburbs. "Before they tear it down and turn it into condos. Get your bids in now. Hope they're cheap."

Butler might be sentimental about the venue - but, for me, they can't demolish it enough. Earl's Court is undoubtedly the worst concert venue in London. An ugly, reverberant warehouse with all the soul and personality of a damp towel.

Arcade Fire are helped by the fact their songs gain a scale and majesty from the sonorous echo (after all, they recorded their second album in a cathedral). The early material - Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), Ready To Start, Rebellion (Lies) - sounds particularly grand; but the finessed basslines of last year's Reflektor album get lost in the rafters.

The sprawling 12-piece band aren't going to let the night be spoiled by dodgy acoustics, though.

There's always been a chaotic energy to an Arcade Fire show - William Butler, in particular, plays with the demented fervour of a tiny puppy who's just heard the word "walkies" - and on this arena tour, they've extended the dramatics to the audience. Fans were asked to turn up in fancy dress, and we saw sequins, skeletons, facepaints, ball gowns, bow ties and one brave man in full-on fishnet-stockinged drag.

In return, the audience got their own lighting rig, as well as glitter cannons, steel drums, fake palm trees, and a full dance troupe on a hydraulic platform. Regine also appeared on the b-stage later in the show, performing the back-and-forth vocals of It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) facing her husband across the arena.

What else? Ian McCullough made a guest appearance, playing Echo And The Bunnymen's The Cutter; a man in a full mirror suit became a human disco ball; while a mariachi band in bobblehead masks played a wobbly version of Bittersweet Symphony.

The three-track encore was undoubtedly the highlight - starting with the moshpit-inciting Normal People, followed by the supple groove of Here Comes The Night Time and finishing with a truly anthemic, air-punching Wake Up (strangely uplifting for a song that bgins "something filled up my heart with nothing").

"We only put out a record every four years or so it feels really special to be here," said Win as the show ended. "You guys have been amazing."

The feeling was mutual. And if Arcade Fire can turn the cold, cavernous Earl's Court into a full-on Haitian carnival, Glastonbury is going to be a doddle.

Flashbulb Eyes
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (Lies)
Joan Of Arc
The Suburbs
Ready To Start
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
The Cutter - with Ian McCullough
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
We Exist
It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
Sprawl II

Bittersweet Symphony - fake band cover
Normal Person
Here Comes The Night Time
Wake Up

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