Arcade Fire @ Brixton Academy, 16 March 2007

Friday, 23 March 2007, 17:30 | Category : Uncategorized
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I’m a whole week, late with this, but then again, I’ve got an excuse

Arcade Fire are making up for lost time. Back in 2005 when they first arrived on these shores riding waves of critical acclaim and internet hype, they only played three London shows – the now legendary gigs at King’s College and ULU and one a few months later at the Astoria. For a band of their stature, that wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy the demand of their growing British fanbase. So this time round, they’ve clocked up no fewer than nine gigs in less than three months – their five-night London residency in January which served as the world premiere for new album The Neon Bible, and now four nights at Brixton Academy. It’s no surprise that all of these dates sold out in a flash. Especially now the band are no longer just the critic’s choice. They’re an international phenomenon.

This Brixton Academy gig was always going to be a bit different from the St John’s show I was at in January. That’s both a good and a bad thing. For a start, the sum of all the audiences for the January gigs could have fitted into the Academy with plenty room to spare. Then we were standing in serried rows. Tonight it’s hands in the air wild abandon from most of the downstairs crowd. So the atmosphere is better. And their stage set is bigger and more impressive. But on the negative side there’s the high bar prices (that’s high cost for low quality), the awful sound (on the third night, why is there still feedback throughout the whole set?), the higher than usual number of idiots in the crowd (that’s big gigs for you) and no scope for any of the Arcade Fire’s fabled end-of-gig extra-curricular activities.

But most importantly, the band’s performance is better. They seem on top form tonight, and their passion and mad energy make up for all the technical problems. In a funny way it’s appropriate that they should walk on stage to a film clip of a crazy Pentecostal preacher offering to give her congergation a ‘Holy Ghost enema’, given that their fervour in playing and singing is almost religious in intensity. And of course the songs are so impressive too. It’s a joy to behold. I always expected that they would major on playing the new record, and they do, missing out only Antichrist Television Blues, My Body is a Cage (a shame, given the big pipe organ on stage) and the title track. However, this time seeing them, I’ve had more time to spend with The Neon Bible, and I’m beginning to really love it. Even the much-derided people who suggested that it was better than Funeral are beginning to look like they have a point.

Although the new songs go down a storm, even inspiring mass sing-alongs from fans who know all the words already, it’s still the Funeral tracks that get the biggest adulation. Six tracks off their debut long-player is more than most audiences have been getting on this tour, and the crowd responded in kind. Two encores. Two of the biggest Funeral songs (Wake Up and Power Out) were kept till the screaming end to send most of the crowd off in raptures. However, I was not quite so moved. Because for me, Arcade Fire will always be victims of their own greatness, and giving me in that 2005 ULU show one of my lifetime’s greatest live music experiences. I’m not sure that any of their gigs, now or in the future, can live up to that night. Still, tonight came close , and all that said, Arcade Fire are still such an amazing band that I’d watch them almost anywhere. Maybe not Wembley Arena though - everyone has to have their limits.

See some more of my Arcade Fire pics from the gig at my Flickr, along with some of Electrelane, who were supporting (there’s a separate post for them coming up). Three Pink Monkeys has much better shots, but then again, she got into the photographer’s pit.

2 Comments for “Arcade Fire @ Brixton Academy, 16 March 2007”

  1. 1headphonesex

    You were at ULU as well were you? Amazing wasn’t it. I will still never fathom how the mate I went with decided they were shit & went off to stalk Jarvis Cocker in the bar instead. I spent the whole gig with my mouth falling open in awe.

  2. 2The Daily Growl

    haha - moments to later regret. I remember seeing Jarvis at that one too, at the back at the end of the gig. Surrounded by people clamouring for his attention. Maybe your mate was one of them…

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