Review: Arcade Fire @ CIA
6.30pm. That’s what the ticket said. Doors @ 6.30pm.
I wished I rocked up around 8.45pm. That way I would have missed Devendra Banhart, a once interesting psych-folk act now reduced to regurgitating the worst parts of the sixties and seventies. We remember The Beatles, The Stones, punk and disco. We don’t remember the other 95% of it because it was rubbish.
Finally the houselights went down again and it was time for Arcade Fire. The crowd surged forward. You could taste the anticipation. The collective will, begging to bellow the wordless choruses of Funeral. On Arcade Fire bounded, vaguely militaristic in garb and professionalism. Seasoned performers they ripped through all three of their albums. Month Of May was ferocious, No Cars Go was thrillingly bombastic, every song an anthem.
Yet it retained a sense of the personal. Arcade Fire are a band very much of my generation, furious at the collective apathy, the relative alienation and of the sprawl. Indeed Win Butler expressed his fury at instead of seeing the landscape of John Ford’s film How Green Was My Valley, he was greeted by “a TGI Fridays and a f***ing Hooters”.
And Arcade Fire know how to work a stage and a crowd. It’s impossible not to be drawn in with so much happening on stage, swapping instruments and roles, running around and banging seven shades of something out of anything that comes to hand. Win Butler possesses great presence, vital for a frontman of a band of this scale, but probably inherent to all six-foot-plus Texans especially those with half a haircut. Intriguing videos and impressive lighting were merely the icing on the cake.
I was a little disappointed they went along with the whole encore shtick, especially with CIA’s whole turning on the house-lights thing. Everybody knew they were gonna come back for at least one more song. Thankfully it was two as they kicked off with the overly-stylised Intervention but closed on the heartfelt Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) with its fitting lyrics about the snow. And when they finally wished us a happy holidays and a white Christmas (“Whether you want one or not, as it’s good for your health!”) it seemed like they genuinely meant it.
So despite the terrible venue, the terrible support act and the terrible people around us, this was still a brilliant gig and that was down to Arcade Fire and Arcade Fire alone. They must be one of the finest live acts going.