If you’ve had your ear to the ground regarding new bands of late, the name Arcade Fire will certainly ring a bell – hailing from the hotbed of musical talent that is Montreal, their debut album Funeral (named as such due to the deaths of several friends and family members) was released in February on Rough Trade to much critical acclaim.
A seven piece fronted by the song writing and also lawful union between Win Butler and Régine Chasagnee, they adhere to no hard and fast rules as far as dynamics are concerned – each member plays whatever he/she sees fit for any particular number. The instruments that make up this intriguing sound include your standard guitar, bass, keyboard and drums, but also violins, tambourines, an accordion, a cello and a motorcycle helmet (More of this later).
Tonight’s show here at the dark and intimate surrounds of the Academy 2 represents only their fifth appearance in the UK. Posters outside the venue are declaring the gig a complete sell out, and touts are looking to secure their holidays in the sun a few months early – tickets for the current tour are gold dust, and as soon as they assemble on stage and start playing their instruments, it’s not difficult to see why.
Opening rather curiously with a cover of Bob Dylan‘s Hard Rain, the expectant and anxious crowd are slightly taken aback. However, this only proves to be a tantalising entrée for the magnificence of Wake Up. Although very dark (“Something filled up my heart with nothing, someone told me not to cry”), the song is an incredibly life affirming piece of music that recalls The Polyphonic Spree or The Flaming Lips, with Butler’s mesmerising vocals filling up the venue effortlessly.
The sublime single of the year contender Laika follows, and this is undoubtedly a highlight of the evening. Live, it’s much more urgent than on record and its chorus even more memorable. The energy of the band members is something truly remarkable, here the group’s all rounder Richard Reed Parry prances around stage like a man possessed, adding an extra depth to the percussion by bashing a drumstick against a pipe on the low ceiling, a solitary cymbal as well as a the aforementioned bike helmet. You get the feeling that there’s little design to all of this, something which makes Arcade Fire a rather fascinating live spectacle.
The real centrepiece of the set comes later, however, as the final four songs are unleashed. The slow burning, violin based Crown Of Love captivates the audience, as does album highlight Tunnels, which has everyone singing along by the time it reaches its euphoric finale.
Forthcoming single Power Out, their heaviest moment, is akin to a freight train out of control, and witnesses Butler dive into the crowd as he strums furiously on the song’s breakdown. This morphs directly into the insistent piano introduction of Rebellion (Lies), a song that is destined to become a bona fide indie hit upon its inevitable release some time later this year.
It’s often said that there are two groups of bands – bands that merely play live as a course of obligation and true live bands. That Arcade Fire fall into the latter category is beyond doubt. Indeed, it’s been an exhausting and utterly captivating hour of music, proof if it were ever needed that these amiable Canadians are with us for the long run.