Arcade Fire @ LG Arena, 8th December 2010

Arcade Fire, NEC 8-12-10

Some people will argue that alternative indie bands becoming arena filling, chart topping acts, removes an element of credibility and can be described as ‘selling out’. Now, I’m not denying this is ever the case (please see The Killers/Kings of Leon….) but applying this tag to Montreal’s finest won’t wash with me! The fact is that since 2007’s Neon Bible album, the Arcade Fire have been selling out arena’s all over the world whilst at the same time openly supporting and promoting charities. Songs from 2004’s debut album, Funeral, such as ‘Wake Up’ were always destined to be bellowed out to the masses in arena’s all over the world. The band now have an ever increasing back catalogue to draw from and whichever album they dip into it always feels fresh. A recent review I read described Arcade Fire as, ‘the Coldplay it’s still ok to like’. I understand the point but with the Arcade Fire nothing seems too contrived or in your face in terms of their beliefs or support of charities etc.

Davendra Banhart, NEC 8-12-10

The support act, Devendra Banhart, took the stage accompanied by a very accomplished guitar / keyboard band. He was credited by the Arcade Fire during their set as giving them their first break in 2002 and has released seven albums over the years to critical acclaim. He was neatly dressed in jacket and brimmed hat and sporting a guitar for most of the performance. He delivered a well performed and received set, highlighting his song-writing ability and his unique voice, which has a vibrato warble rather like Marc Bolan at times. He seems to have an ability to connect to the audience. In the middle of his set he switches to an electric piano for a solo performance, a difficult feat with the background audience noise from the large NEC crowd. He leaves the stage to loud applause from the appreciative audience.

Arcade Fire, NEC 8-12-10

My recent gig experiences at large arenas have been mixed and, after attending a half full NIA for Gorillaz last month, I was a bit apprehensive about how many empty seats there might be in the LG Arena in light of tickets still being on sale on the afternoon. As it turned out this wasn’t an issue. To be fair the £27.50 tickets for tonight’s gig weren’t overpriced (take note Damon Albarn) and on top of that a £1 donation goes straight to charity (the band are trying to raise $2 million for charities working in Haiti, where the band have connections). I wonder if the LG Arena would be donating any percentage of the £8 car parking to charity……..? For anyone who hasn’t been to gig at the LG Arena, it’s quite strange. It doesn’t feel like a gig venue at all until you get into the actual arena. The car park and food halls feel more like an extra terminal from the neighbouring airport.

Arcade Fire, NEC 8-12-10

The Arcade Fire took to the stage just after 8:40pm and went straight into ‘Ready to Start’ from their latest album. Some of the older songs such as ‘Tunnels’, ‘Laika and ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ from their debut album left the crowd ecstatic. With a mostly up-tempo set, each of their three albums received equally good attention and there was hardly any pause between songs which made the set flow really well.

Arcade Fire, NEC 8-12-10

Now on their third record, The Suburbs, released earlier this year, the band been gathering momentum and winning new fans with each album leading to them headlining Reading & Leeds Festivals this year. The Arcade Fire live experience is really something special. Each song, regardless of which album it comes from seems to have its own identity and combined with the passionate performance by all 8 members of the band it really creates a great atmosphere. The energy on stage is almost infectious and would have the most reserved of gig goers jumping up and down. From where we were stood, the sound and the lighting were spot on for the performance and, I don’t know how they did it, but they made the arena feel like an intimate gig rather than a huge space. The band made an effort in getting everyone up and dancing and encouraged the people in the seats to do the same.

They fronted by husband and wife, Win Butler and Regine Chasagne, who share lead vocals. There is a really good chemistry not only between these two but the band as a whole, with members jumping from instrument to instrument throughout the set. You leave the gig in awe, but also extremely jealous of these people’s talent! The majority of tracks from The Suburbs are sung by Win and, having listened to the album constantly for a few months, I really enjoyed seeing tracks like ‘Rococo’, ‘Ready to Start’ and ‘The Suburbs’ live, as it added an extra dimension to them.

Arcade Fire, NEC 8-12-10

Win Butler has friendly banter with the audience and seems very at home in front of a large crowd. He was keen to get the mid-week Brummie crowd rocking early doors and as the set progressed felt confident enough to have a little pop at the architecture / town planning of the second city. Introducing Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Butler described his hometown of Houston, Texas as as being ‘a really shitty town’ and then with a cheeky smile — ‘but Birmingham is right up there’. No offence taken (I’m from Lancashire!), mistakes have been made but to be fair, Birmingham was bombed to pieces, whereas Houston? As the set came to a close you could tell that the band had really enjoyed it and Butler thanked the audience for being ‘awesome’ and making the performance feel really special. The rousing encore of ‘Wake Up’ had the crowd singing ‘the hell out of it’ as encouraged by Butler.

Arcade Fire, NEC 8-12-10

The Arcade Fire are arguably the best band in the world right now and the finest example of how an indie band can make the transition to large arenas without losing any of their spark or energy. There was singing, dancing and smiles on faces from the crowd where I was stood. My girlfriend and I have been lucky enough to see the band on three occasions and whilst they’ve been superb every time, we both agreed that tonight’s performance was the best so far. A really special gig.

1. Ready to Start
2. Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
3. No Cars Go
4. Haïti
5. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
6. Empty Room
7. Rococo
8. My Body Is a Cage
9. The Suburbs
10. The Suburbs (Continued)
11. Month of May
12. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
13. Intervention
14. We Used to Wait
15. Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
16. Rebellion (Lies)

Keep the Car Running
Wake Up

Review – Chris Thompson
Photos – John Bentley

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