Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #24

#24: Arcade Fire
Cardiff International Arena – 30th October 2007
Support: Clinic
Also in attendance: MrsRobster

The first time I became aware of Arcade Fire was their appearance on Jools Holland’s show in 2005. I was immediately struck by their energy. They looked like an awesome live act, but their songs sounded decent too. I bought their debut album ‘Funeral’ and became hooked. So when they descended on Cardiff a couple years later it was a no-brainer – I had to go.

Supporting was Clinic, a band I had seen twice before, each time as a support act. The first time was with Super Furry Animals, and I remember how sinister they looked dressed in their hospital theatre gowns and masks. The next time was with the Flaming Lips when they went down much better than I thought they would. This third time they were better still; Clinic can definitely confuse many onlookers, but are definitely worth persevering with. MrsRobster is a bit of a fan, so if that's not a recommendation I don't know what is! I only recall seeing one other act – Credit To The Nation – as many times as a support but never a headliner.

Even before Arcade Fire played a note, you had the feeling this was going to be some show. The stage was bedecked with instruments galore, a large video screen and various other visual adornments. When the band played, they set the place alight! The most striking member is undoubtedly Régine Chassagne. She started out playing drums, then switched to keyboards, then sang, played percussion, the accordian and even the hurdy-gurdy! Between all this, she constantly ran about the stage, engaging with the crowd and whipping up their enthusiasm. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, she was magnificent.

But Arcade Fire were nine-strong, and the other eight members were equally brilliant. Win Butler holds a commanding presence at the front of the stage (when Régine isn’t running around in all directions behind him), and Sarah Neufeld – violinist, keyboard player and vocalist – also displayed a vigour and verve which summed up what Arcade Fire were all about, in spite of her status as a ‘fringe member’.

Ultimately, the songs themselves were the stars of the show. Many of Arcade Fire’s finest moments have this habit of starting out in a rather understated manner before building up the most ferocious, uplifting climax. Black Mirror, the opening track from the band’s second album ‘Neon Bible’, is a perfect example of this, as is Rebellion (Lies) from ‘Funeral’. But other songs just go all out from the off, starting a mass arms-aloft singalong in good old stadium rock fashion – yes, we’re talking Wake Up here, of course, but Neighbourhood #3 (Lights Out) and No Cars Go also fit the bill. 

Both the spectacle and the sound of this Arcade Fire show still resonates with me. It was the last gig I came away from absolutely struck dumb. If there was just one minor quibble, it was when they played Intervention, my fave track from ‘Neon Bible’. That huge pipe organ sound on the record should have sounded absolutely MASSIVE in the live setting. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to my expectation. But that aside, I do rate my Arcade Fire experience as one of my all-time top 5 live shows.

If You Could Read Your Mind – Clinic (from ‘Visitations’)

Rebellion (Lies) [live] – Arcade Fire (live on Letterman 2005)

Intervention [live] – Arcade Fire (live at Glastonbury 2007)

Wake Up [live] – Arcade Fire (live at the Reading Festival 2010)

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