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Arcade Fire Leave London's York Hall in Breathless Tizzy of Euphoria

Picture of Ann Lee
Music Editor
Updated: 5 July 2017
Arcade Fire have chosen a tiny boxing hall in Bethnal Green for their live return in London. Strutting up on stage, they’re given a good old-fashioned boxer’s welcome. Husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne stride up triumphant with their crew as they’re declared the ‘undefeated’ champions of the music business.

They have every reason to feel triumphant. As the Canadian band have crossed over to mainstream success with number one albums and countless awards – including a Grammy and an Oscar nomination – they’ve remained defiantly indie. Their unique and multi-layered sound has never been watered down or compromised to appeal to the masses.

They’re here to launch their upcoming album Everything Now – their sixth studio offering after 2013’s Reflektor – and get straight down to business with the first single and title track. It’s a joyous disco anthem with shades of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ that everyone already seems to know the words to even though it’s only been out for a month.

But a band like Arcade Fire know how to tease the crowd and quickly switch back to old classics to get the audience going, starting with the gutsy exuberance of ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ from their 2004 debut album Funeral.

From there they jump to the propulsive calypso rhythms of ‘Here Comes the Night Time’, the energetic blast of ‘Power Out’, and the Bowie dance jam of ‘Reflektor’ during their 18-song set. One of the most charming moments comes when Régine, who is giving off serious Michael Jackson vibes in a red leather jumpsuit and white gloves, takes the lead on vocals on ‘Sprawl 2’ and dances around with cheerleader streamers.

The band also debut a brand new called song ‘Chemistry’, underscored by squelches of sax, that like previously released single ‘Signs of Life’ has a funkier feel to it.

Another new track ‘Creature Comfort’ sounds more like a continuation of their old material on Reflektor with its lacerating lyrics, dance beats and catchy hooks.

Crammed onto the small space, there’s barely enough room for their equipment, let alone all of them as they all happily switch instruments, dance around and jump perilously off amps. The band look like they’re having a blast and their joy is infectious. The stage is located slap bang in the middle of the floor giving them a 360 degree view and allowing them to work every side of the room.

At one point, the lights go up in the middle of their encore ‘Wake Up’ to reveal everyone in the audience from the floor to the balcony howling out the chorus in unison. It’s beautiful moments like this that make you realise Arcade Fire are a truly special live act. They consistently bring their very best to each and every song to leave you in a breathless tizzy of euphoria with their consummate craftsmanship. Their gigs are more akin to carnivalesque parties while their performances turn into life-affirming mass singalongs.

Last night, they started off proceedings with a sax version of the US national anthem. Hey, it was Independence Day after all and Canada Day a few days before that, Win tells the crowd. But really, they don’t need national pride to bring people together. Their music is more than enough.

Rating: 5/5