Is Camden’s Roundhouse the greatest venue in London? Probably. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Ramones… all the biggies have played in the erstwhile railway engine shed. The place vibrates with history and atmosphere. The latest rock behemoth on stage is Arcade Fire, who last night (November 11) played their first UK show – as fake band The Reflektors – since the release of fourth album ‘Reflektor’. Would Londoners turn out in high spirits on a soggy Monday night? You bet. Here’s 5 things we learned.
Engagement levels are up by 10,000%
Arcade Fire can seem like an impenetrable family unit to watch live, with Butler rarely talking to the audience and the sheer number of musicians preventing individual connections. Until now. Butler engaged with the crowd constantly, thanking UK fans for getting ‘Reflektor’ to number one for a week, saying, “There’s enough weirdos out there to make the world seem OK for just one week”. ‘Normal Person’ opened with a sprawling spoken-word confessional to his mother in which Butler confessed that he “stole the car keys when he was 15, not his brother Will”. ‘Crown Of Love’ was dedicated to the late father of renowned photographer Leah Gordon and the audience were encouraged to check out the photos of Haiti circling the room. “Cultural tourism kiss my ass,” he spat before thanking the country, saying “without Haiti I wouldn’t have my wife or this record.” Towards the end, Butler donned an enormous papier mâché head and jumped into the crowd like an excitable Beavis, or Butt-head.
Win Butler is not sorry for his strict dress code
The band imposed a mandatory dress code on gig-goers recently. ‘Formal attire or costumes’ are required at their shows, although people will not be turned away at the door if they rock up in a tracksuit. Around 30 per cent of the crowd obeyed Butler and donned Venetian masks, glow stick necklaces, tuxedos, panelled Reflektor jackets, animal masks, prison stripes and a beach of sequins. The frontman congratulated those who stuck to the rules, saying their “chances of getting laid had gone up by 10,000%,” which was questionable. “And to those who feel uncomfortable, I am not sorry,” he said, which seemed kind of weird. Still, the costumes added a sense of occasion and excitement, and if anyone can get away with being self-regarding, it’s Arcade Fire.
We want more Régine Chassagne
The excitement of the crowd peaked when Chassagne took centre stage for ‘Sprawl 2’. In a fringed sequinned top and red glitter wristbands she smiled, danced and appeared euphoric, before whipping out some neon ribbons to shake around. It would’ve been nice to hear more from her, as always.
The shift to the electronic is significant
‘Reflektor’ is produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy so, as you can imagine, there isn’t a hurdy-gurdy in sight. It pumps and propels with disco basslines, electro synths and mechanic energy. Apart from ‘Power Out’, ‘Sprawl II’ and ‘Crown Of Love’ the set was made up of songs from the new album, all of which had the crowd dancing and moshing. Backed by a metal backdrop that looked like a cage and under massive glitterballs, Butler seemed like a new, unorthodox rock star in a disco setting. I wondered if they’d struggle to position the new and old music together, but they’d picked the old songs carefully. The most lo-fi moment of the night was Butler’s a cappella ‘My Body Is A Cage’.
They’re still one of the greatest bands in the world
Though ‘Reflektor’ was released a couple of weeks ago, everyone at the show seemed to know all the words already. Every song from the new album was greeted enthusiastically without exception and Butler’s voice – particularly on the higher reaches of ‘Crown Of Love’ – was typically powerful and stirring. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Glastonbury…
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Arcade Fire played:
‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’
‘Joan Of Arc’
‘You Already Know’
‘It’s Never Over’
‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’
‘Here Comes The Night Time’
‘Crown Of Love’