Review by Bimal Tailor with Photography by Michael Sibbons

A multi-sensory audio visual experience from a band who are often branded the best live band in the world.

I discover many reasons why this is the case and I find myself thinking that I would pay more to see them. This is the 2nd night of a three night London leg of the #InfiniteContent Tour for Arcade Fire, following the release of their 5th album, Everything Now.

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Ever since they released their critically acclaimed first album, Funeral, their popularity continues to grow with every new album with a mix of different styles and collaborations incorporated into each.

First up tonight, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band who have – believe it or not – been going since 1963. Started in a small art gallery called Preservation Hall, in New Orleans. Louis Armstrong apparently once said “Preservation Hall, now that’s where you’ll find all of the greats”. If Louis Armstrong said that, that’s nothing to be sniffed at! A true great of music right there.

I have to be honest, I hadn’t heard of the band until I looked up the supporting acts for the gig. Boy, was I in for a treat. This is New Orleans Jazz at its finest. The band was started by Allan Jaffe, a tuba player, who passed away in 1987. Today, the band is led by his son, Ben, who like his dad, plays the tuba (as well as double bass). The band play a mixture of instruments, typical of the Jazz sound, from double bass, tuba, saxophone, trombone to trumpet, clarinet, drums and piano.

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The New Orleans sound goes down well, with the crowd responding with cheers and woops. They cleverly finish off with an instrumental version of ‘Oh, You Pretty Things’ by David Bowie and then shouting “David Bowie Forevveerrr”. By the end of their 40 minute set, they most definitely have a new fan in me and the many others in the arena.

During the interval, #InfiniteContent marketing fake ads were appearing on the four large screens above the stage. A man with his face covered (by a night sky moving image), highlights that you too can get your hands on some amazing merchandise in and around the arena. It feels like this album has had an enormous amount of marketing budget put behind it, judging by the amount of promotion seen online. This almost feels relevant because of the name of tour.

While instruments were changed and ropes were attached on all four sides of the stage (situated in the middle of the arena) it starts to resemble a boxing ring. The lights go out, spotlights dance around the arena, the ‘Everything Now’ logo spins on all four screens above the stage, two huge disco balls spinning around above us, the crowd cheered in anticipation of their arrival.

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The song ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’ by Walter Murphy plays over the sound system followed by an instrumental version of the title track ‘Everything Now’. As the band make an entrance into the arena in classic boxing style, the ring announcer runs through where they are from, how much in total they weigh and some of the awards they have picked up with a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that they missed out on an Oscar. Last year, Arcade Fire delighted fans to a intimate night of music at the York Hall in Bethnal Green – a venue well known for East End Boxing. York Hall is a small venue, yet tonight’s arena is made to feel intimate even though there is a full capacity of 12,500 crowd.

Once all on stage, dancing through the boxing ring ropes, they start to belt out the title track from their new album, ‘Everything Now’, singing with wild energy and intensity. There is no pause between tracks, as one song starts to conclude the next song is slowing making its way in – which helps to keep the Arcade Fire party vibe going. They now run through some of the more popular songs from their previous albums. ‘Rebellion’ (Lies) – a song sounding almost like a drum roll for what is to come – Will Butler is seen wildly bashing at the drum, while running and dancing on and off the stage, gesturing to the crowd passionately while they sing along and clap to the long lingering (almost) religious mellow chants.

The shackles (ropes) have come off as the party starts with ‘Here Comes The Nighttime’ from the Reflektor’ album – which is complimented with lighting and video with multi-coloured strobes and lines. The song starts off quite mellow warming the crowd into a little sing a long, climaxing into a frenzy where everyone is jumping. The evening is just getting started.

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A percussion filled song called No Cars Go, from the second album Neon Bible, followed by two songs from the new album called ‘Electric Blue’ and ‘Put Your Money On Me’. ‘Electric Blue’ sung by the multi-talented Régine Chassagne feels like a very sweet-sounding mellow melody like many of the tracks with her on lead. The stage and arena has been transformed into an electric blue heaven as Regine twists, turns and spirals to the song with effortless ease and beauty ensuring that everyone on all four sides of the stage get her attention.

‘Put Your Money On Me’ – an upbeat synth number is complimented on the screens with images, iconography and videos presenting Arcade Fire and their album as a product. Only last month they brought out a music video called ‘Money + Love’ which combines this song and ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’. What do you prefer, money or love?

The next few songs to ‘Crown of Love’, ‘Ocean of Noise’ (which we saw the arena beautifully lit up by phone torches), set a mellow tempo to the proceedings followed by the phenomenal ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’ from the first album. Often regarded (by press and fans) as the best song they have ever written. There is an powerful element of haunting nostalgia throughout the song because the slow sombre tempo which moves up the gears like a tornado getting closer. An eruption of noise rises from the crowd as the song draws to a close.

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We’re half way through and Arcade Fire are now in their element – every song is now being sung by the audience with passion and energy – and the band are feeding off this like some kind of sensory music beast. They run through various songs from all 5 albums including ‘The Suburbs’, ‘Ready to Start’ and the utterly delicate ‘Sprawl II’, sung by beautifully glitter dressed Régine – dancing with streamers around the stage. This is a note, if any, that the last few songs will take on a more disco vibe.

And so it is, Reflektor turns the whole arena into a disco with the disco balls reflecting light beams around the arena. To the delight of many, Régine makes her way into crowd for a sing and dance with security plowing a path and camera people in tow. Previous live performances uploaded to youtube and instagram show that this isn’t the first time Régine has jumped into the middle of the audience losing herself in the music to the delight of everyone around her.

Next it’s lead singer Win’s turn to engage and disappear into the audience, for the very popular emotionally charged song ‘Afterlife’. What a moment for those around him. This song feels like it strikes a chord for many. For those who have lost family or friends, or a break up of some sort, because of the lyrics. It certainly did for a friend of mine I was with. I could see visible tears flowing down his face as he remembered his mother who passed away a few years ago, by the end of the song he was embracing the moment and lyrics as if he had written them himself.

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It looked like their last songs of a quite extraordinary concert, as it was getting close to the curfew time of 11pm… ‘Creature Comfort’ and ‘Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)’ plays us out. Both of which delights the audience… the song from the first album which gets everyone jumping in unison, the new song gets everyone singing along.

Earlier in the gig alluded to the fact that one of their favourite artists of all time was here. The band then leave the stage with huge cheers and wooping. Can’t finish now, can they? Of course not, there is an encore. On to the stage comes…. Jarvis Cocker, singing – which he stated is still relevant today as it was in 2006 when it was released – C*nts Are Still Running The World – to which everyone in the arena, rolled their eyes and looked at each other with mild amusement. Is he really going to sing that here? There are kids in the audience. No one cares.

Arcade Fire end with ‘Wake Up’. A real crowd pleaser / anthem. Feels like something that a stadium of football fans would sing along to. The magnificent Preservation Hall Jazz Band join Arcade Fire on stage. There are a lot of brilliant musicians on the stage now. ‘Wake Up’, like many of Arcade Fire’s songs, involves long lingering religious type chanting, it’s very easy to follow and join in with – I’m compelled to do so.

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‘Wake Up’ ends and the bands come off stage, then proceed to walk very slowly through the crowd, towards the doors where they came into the arena, singing David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’. What a delight. I am compelled to look them up on Instagram afterwards and witness the band still playing instruments and singing along the corridors of Wembley Arena. No one but official arena staff, band members and camera technicians present. I want to join them.

As I walk out of the arena and home towards the station, I cannot but help reflect on tonight’s event. My moments of reflection and thought were joined in unison by many many fans singing along together to ‘Wake Up’. It feels like they have just left a football match and their team has just won the cup final. Maybe that feels more evident as we walk past the monumental but characterless Wembley Stadium.

It’s been a belter of a gig. The new songs were well received, almost as much as the old material. The show has been a delight for the eyes and ears with some lucky enough to high five some of the band members as they walked through the crowd like prizefighters.

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Many have branded Arcade Fire one of the best bands and live bands in the world and on this evidence, not many people could argue with that. I want to go home and watch (then rewatch) music videos and previous live performances… How will they ever top this? I don’t want to think about it. I want to savour the night.

Arcade Fire, undefeated champions of the world.

Set List:

Everything Now (Continued) (instrumental version with boxing intro)
Rebellion (Lies)
Haiti
Here Comes the Night Time
No Cars Go
Electric Blue
Put Your Money on Me
Crown of love
Ocean of noise
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
The Suburbs
Ready to Start (Damien Taylor Remix outro)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Reflektor
Afterlife
Creature Comfort
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) (With ‘I Give You Power’ snippet)

Encore:
We Don’t Deserve Love
Everything Now (Continued) (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
Wake Up (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
Wake Up Chorus (with Preservation Hall Jazz Band)

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