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Arcade Fire, Wembley Arena review - sensational spectacle | reviews, news & interviews

Arcade Fire, Wembley Arena review - sensational spectacle

Arcade Fire, Wembley Arena review - sensational spectacle

Canadian indies sing up a storm in in-the-round, with a cameo from Jarvis Cocker

Drumming up support: Régine Chassagne of Arcade FireRuthless Imagery

The Stones do it. U2 too. It takes immense and lordly clout for a touring band to breeze into town and each night summon a major recording artist to step onstage for some party fun. For Arcade Fire’s first night at Wembley Arena it was Chrissie Hynde. For the second, Jarvis Cocker lolloped up in a cream twin-breast linen suit to deliver that radio-friendly anthem, “Cunts Are Still Running the World”.

Plus ça change, as they say in Montreal.

From “Everything Now” to “Wake Up”, this was a sensational spectacle. Arcade Fire have taken the concept of performing in the round and, with the aid of an imaginative lighting rig, given it a dazzling reboot. The four-square stage, raised in the heart of the arena, was got up like a roped-off boxing ring, which they entered through the groundlings as if preparing to win a heavyweight world championship. Halfway into the third song (“Here Comes the Night Time”) roadies unclipped the ropes as if the contest was over.

The knotty problem of performing in the round is who and where to face. The set design solved it by parking two drum kits and a white upright piano on a central raised revolve, while the various musicians faced outwards, making eye contact with the audience rather than each other. That speaks of confident musicianship. It was a rare moment towards the end when the burning heat of “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)”, which closed the main set, found the band centripetally leaning into one another. Between songs, like hot-desking lab rats in a bustling sci-fi scenario, they’d swap instruments and positions so that the stage was always alive with energy, even when William Butler wasn’t hectically thwacking a handheld drum as if to energise a revival meeting.Arcade Fire by Ruthless ImageryThe other problem of arena gigs was addressed by a quartet of letter-box screens suspended above the stage which offered cinemascopically unpixellated close-ups. The result is that no one missed a thing. The more anthemic choruses, with their singalong “oohs” and “oh oh ohs”, drew the occupants of even the most distant seats into an enveloping huddle. And now and then Win Butler or Régine Chassagne would go walkabout to mingle democratically among their people, who politely parted to let them through.

The setlist drew equally from all points of the catalogue. “Ready to Start”, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” and “The Suburbs”, its trademark thudding rhythm laid on by two drummers, were stompy representatives of their 2010 break-out album. The stand-out from Everything Now was the noodly synth-driven “Put Your Money on Me”, supported by video projections. The pulse of the set went up and down, often thrillingly within the same song. Halfway into “Crown of Love”, in which Régine Chassagne let drummer Jeremy Gara take a well-earned rest, the band thrillingly hit the accelerator pedal. That happened a lot.Win Butler by Ruth MedjberWe need to talk about Chassagne. Arcade Fire is all about the collective, obviously, in which Win Butler (pictured above by Ruth Medjber) has unchallenged status as first among equals. It was mostly him, in a pair of high-vis orange lace-up boxing boots, who occupied the various mini-podiums dotted about the stage. But every time his wife with her breathy falsetto came vocally to the fore – in a sassy “Electric Blue”, the seductive “Reflektor” – she was very thoroughly the focus-pulling star, even without the glitterball all-in-one she slipped into halfway through the set.

Everyone hopped from instrument to sundry instrument as per the colourful Arcade Fire tradition, from woodwinds to wine bottles. None was quite as eye-catching as the sousaphone wrapped round a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the support act who came on for the final encore after a yearning, introspective “We Don’t Deserve Love”, followed by the Jarvis Cocker moment. They exited as they entered, through their people, singing an unplugged “Rebel Rebel” in homage to David Bowie as if leading a life-affirming New Orleans processional. Et in Arcade Fire ego.


The pulse of the set went up and down, often thrillingly within the same song


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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