The questions over whether Arcade Fire are ‘big’ enough, in terms of sound, reputation and presence to follow the likes of Kings Of Leon and The Killers into the arena scene were tonight well and truly put to bed.
The empty seats testament to weather conditions that the eight-piece Montreal group would be more used to back home had clearly prevented many from making it out to Greenwich, but even without the rafters being troubled, Arcade Fire provided a stellar performance.
The set was not spectacular, the screens looking like Comet had been taken up on their offer to deliver 37″ LCDs before Christmas, and the visuals were either fairly dull or completely irrelevant to the show. But luckily with Arcade Fire, Win, Régine et al provided all the interest the stage needed.
Kicking off with Ready To Start to a slowly filling arena, the first surprise was how ‘big’ the band sounded. With all eight members manically attacking their instruments with the fervour expected from the notoriously frenetic group, it was reassuring they didn’t feel daunted by the size of the space in front of them. Somewhat surprisingly, the crowd didn’t appear to be ready to start and need a nudge from Win to climb to their feet. The atmosphere transformed immediately and the crowd were rewarded with a rousing rendition of Laika.
Win remains the centrepiece of the seemingly egalitarian troupe. His imposing presence, at the front of the stage, as he delivers songs with equal amounts of euphoric bombast and sombre introspection, is magnetic. Even when he retreats to take up an array of instruments throughout the gig, he remains the focal point for the musical magic occurring all around him.
What was increasingly obvious though is that there is significantly less drama on stage than with previous tours. Rightly regarded as one of the albums of 2010, The Suburbs provides consistently remarkable tracks, such as Modern Man, Rococo and Sprawl II, but the more mature and considered songs result in a more reserved stage performance.
It is with the earlier tracks, notably from Funeral, that the band become more electrically charged, particularly with fan favourites Power Out, Rebellion and Tunnels, all of which had the crowd on their feet with no need for prompting.
Sombre, uplifting, euphoric, flamboyant, emotional and heartfelt all within one set; it is this maturity and diversity of sound which justifies their billing as one of the biggest bands in the world right now and makes them such a compelling live act.
The traditional finale of Wake Up had the crowd eating out of the band’s hands. They’d delivered a virtuoso 90 minutes of pounding intensity, expertly achieving the holy grail of arena gigs but managing to make it a personal experience too.