Edit this event
- Arcade Fire »
Um, contains spoilers?
It seems almost redundant to point out the levels of anticipation surrounding these Arcade Fire gigs – if people have really been making such a fuss about it, then you, dear reader, would probably know about it. Then again, second guessing one’s readership is hella lame, and with such a subjective thing as a live review, a little context can go a long way.
As you can see from eBay, this week-long series of gigs is much in demand. Upon the recent radio debut of new song 'Intervention' the location – a church in the middle of the UK’s seat of Government – seemed to make perfect sense. With a massive, bombastic organ ruling the mix, it seemed that these gigs, unveiling the band’s über-anticipated Neon Bible album, would be an irreplicable experience. It is, after all, hugely impractical to cart an acoustic church organ around on tour. Upon entry, the beauty of the building and the hour-and-a-half long, support-band-less wait escalate the fervour among a diehard crowd that have either scrambled for tickets in the ten minutes that they were available legitimately or paid silly money to a tout. Truly a congregation. The band process to the stage! The crowd cheer! Win Butler, cult leader and Rik Mayall lookalike, orders the audience to stand (transforming the rows of chairs from a nice sedate way to enjoy a gig into a series of herding pens, locking a standing crowd motionless)! A chuggy intro! Excitement! And then
BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM
The entire first song, 'Black Mirror', is left prone by terrible sound engineering, a huddled mess of kicked drum, with traces of other instruments and voices occasionally audible. Such are the perils of trying to be idiosyncratic with your venue choices. A ten-piece band and centuries-old acoustics reduced to one coarse thud.
And thus it continues for a lengthy introduction to the set. New tunes are played and it’s near-impossible to judge their quality. They largely seem to stick to the band’s trademark intermingling of mock classical grandeur, post punk drive and Motown euphoria, and as such seem to lack some of the spark and undeniable ‘specialness’ of Funeral’s highlights. There’s also more than a hint of pompous ‘80s arena rock to it all (from U2 to – believe it – Europe’s 'The Final Countdown'). Of course, this opinion is subject to change. I couldn’t hear shit. 'Haiti' passes by, castrated of its bass hook.
The sound clears up a reasonable amount, only to reveal, in 'My Body Is A Cage', another disappointment. Sure, it’s not a fault in the band’s performance or songwriting, but just another blow to the idea of these gigs as anything special, (and, really, it wasn’t much more than a passing fantasy). There is no big church organ, just a synth replication. For a band responsible for some of the best indie-club tracks around, and some of the most lively performances of the last few years, to have their audience stuck standing in front of seats, for no trade off other than a pretty setting with a really big red curtain behind the band, is a massive, massive shame.
But (and it is a big but, I can’t deny), the simple fact is that any gig featuring songs as good as 'Rebellion (Lies)', 'Tunnels' and 'Power Out' performed by such an enthusiastic, committed, talented band as Arcade Fire is going to really pretty damn good. Also, when the sound is half decent, the album title Neon Bible is shown to be especially fitting. Some passages in which synths play off and mingle with wind and string instruments – at times the two French horns, violin and viola sound stunning – are intriguing and beautiful, (slightly retro-)futurism and tradition combined.
The finale, though, utterly redeems the evening from any gripes. Taking up acoustic instruments and loudhailer, the band proceed through the audience and outside for an entirely captivating rendition of 'Wake Up'. Completely glorious, and with the crowd pressed together, singing into the winter air, a reminder of the band’s inspirational power.
NB: You didn’t need to have tickets to see the acoustic performance. Should it happen again, and should you fancy standing in the cold a while, I'd recommend it hard.
Photograph borrowed from Paul Wilcock
- Where Was He Then? David Bowie's Not-So 'Lost' Decade
- The DiS Community's... 101 Favourite Albums
- Arcade Fire win Polaris Prize for The Suburbs
- Beirut's Summer 2011 - European Tour Diary
- Arcade Fire @ Edinburgh Castle, 1/9/11
- Arcade Fire @ Edinburgh Castle, 1/9/11
- Arcade Fire - Scenes from the Suburbs
- Les Eurockeenes 2011: The DiS Review