It’s been ten years since Arcade Fire’s first sprawling album, Funeral, an instant epic that still stands up now; it remains one of the very best albums of this century so far, alongside the debuts of The Streets, The Fleet Foxes, The Strokes, The Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. Unlike many others bands though, after a decade, Arcade Fire continue at the top of their game, making great new music and producing electrifying live performances.
Their fourth album, Reflecktor, released last year, is high quality and central to their current, long, tour, the European leg of which ended last Thursday night at Hyde Park. Back in London less than four weeks after two great sets on consecutive nights at Earls Court, Arcade Fire delivered in style again. On their first night in West London in June they brought out Ian McCullough for a bit of Echo and the Bunneyman in between Neighbourhood #1 and #2, they used two stages with the second stage more than just a literal platform for their caricatures to play a derivative Bitter Sweet Symphony but also the home for a stunning performance from Régine Chassagne, before they showered the indoor venue with confetti. Their second night came through strongly on the radio just as their headline set at Glastonbury did the same on national TV a couple of weeks later.
On the hottest day of the year to date at Hype Park, there was more ticker tape as a late sunset finally fell upon the capital as a stunning ‘harmony-a-long’ version for the crowd of Wake Up finished another set off powerfully. As well as that finale, there were other classics from Funeral, with Power Out immediately preceding it in an energized encore; Rebellion(Lies) came early in the set and the classic Tunnels came half-way through.
Their newer material is just as strong with the Reflektor title track and We Exist already dance classics, each in their own way, while they are continually inventive live as well, tempting us with the opening of New Order’s Temptation in Afterlife.
On first listen of the recorded version of the The Suburbs the title track sounded like it could have been Neil Young. And time hasn’t changed that; Arcade Fire have a talent for making wonderful music that has immediate impact but retains longevity and still comes across powerfully when performed live.
“They heard me singing and they told me to stop,
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock”
From The Suburbs with Sprawl II (Mountains to Mountains) there are sentiments The Clash gave us with Janie Jones and The Magnificnet Seven, Springsteen also recorded in the seventies and The Smiths echoed in their own way in the eighties, yet with Arcade Fire it sounds just as fresh and progressive.
It is music that is all-consuming, be it the yearning and sense of loss which is a constant theme in their songs, to the combination of resolution and defiance which is ever present and always evident in the sound. Seeing them live it stays with you, moving into the night, every time you close your eyes to when you wake up. A special band.
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