Arcade Fire

Three critically and commercially successful albums in the bag, Canadian indie-rock darlings Arcade Fire hit the road and they’re now staring to take advantage of their rising status. Playing large arenas and even managing the admirable feat of headlining a night at this year’s Reading & Leeds Festivals, on the back of 2010 smash The Suburbs.

Arcade Fire’s live performances are the stuff of dreams. Whilst some bands comprise of four or five members, Arcade Fire can boast 8 members. They’re a proper band, led by the friendly and perennially, bizarrely hair styled Win Butler (with his short “everything but the fringe” do). They are practically a mini orchestra. All of the members are practically multi-instrumentalists and throughout the performance they’ll trade instruments or find another a completely different one to add to the raucous mix. You’ve got everything from guitars and drums to accordions and violins. They are an extremely animated group and it’s rare to see them stand still (except on slower songs like ‘Tunnels’ or ‘Haiti’). It’s a stunning spectacle and one that cannot be missed for live music fans.

In fact, the weakest part of the night wasn’t the band’s performance – it was the LG Arena itself. Once called the NEC, the now renamed arena is the same old frustrating entity. While it packs in big name acts and large crowds (and ticket money galore) it doesn’t bother investing in better sound systems or considering a renovation to improve the acoustics of the place. The only venue more frustrating, which comes to mind, is the O2 in London. It was my hope that Arcade Fire could overcome the limitations of the venue and they barely managed it.

The most frustrating part of the performance was just standing there in the more frenetic moments of the gig, during songs like ‘Month of May’ or ‘Power Out’, and all you get is a mess of noise. You’re seeing the band put on a real show, and you feel isolated from the experience. This is not what you want to see from one of the world’s best live bands. Leading to an overwhelming feeling of immense frustration.

A gig depends on a number of factors to make it great, while the band’s stage presence may comprise a large part of it; the venue holds an equal part. Unfortunately, in the case of the Arcade Fire tonight, a large arena with poor speakers and acoustics can be considered nothing more than failing. It is to the band’s credit that they can still produce an amazing live performance, which was technically superb, and constantly thrilling. I just wish they had picked a better venue for their music.


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