For those of us who were unlucky not to be at the Reading and Leeds Festivals this year, next week can’t come soon enough. After their triumphant, euphoric headline sets at those events (which this writer watched, fighting back tears of utter frustration, via the BBC’s red button), Arcade Fire will arrive on these shores for their first extensive UK tour since the winter of 2007.
Although the ‘Neon Bible’ shows back then were great, they were slightly gloomy and, like the album, gave off an air of edgy uncertainty rather than joyous celebration. This year’s multiple chart-topper ‘The Suburbs’ saw the band swap the apocalyptic for the personal, nightmare for nostalgia.
As a result, it’s made them an even better group. Like all great artists, their setlists are now more rounded, featuring all facets of a band who now appear to be at the very peak of their powers. Want a rocker? There’s the rollicking ‘Month Of May’. A disco one? There’s the lovely, ABBA-esque ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’.
A quiet, introspective one? You’ll almost certainly hear the gentle amble of ‘The Suburbs’’ title track. A communal singalong? Well, they’ve got bloody tons of them – ‘Neighborhood # 2 (Laika)’, Neighborhood # 3 (Power Out)’, ‘We Used To Wait’, ‘Ready To Start’ – and of course, the monumental, regular set closer ‘Wake Up’. In fact, they’re so in tune with the big music, Arcade Fire are actually one of those bands that arguably benefit from playing in large arenas.
Let’s be honest, Arcade Fire now are what U2 and Coldplay would very much like to be if they weren’t so stupidly self-conscious and obsessed with what people think they should be. With Arcade Fire, it doesn’t feel like a grand plan, it feels more instinctive and intuitive, like all brilliant music.
Like Radiohead before them, Arcade Fire have managed to combine unanimous critical acclaim with decent record sales, and it never feels like they have compromised who they are in any way whatsoever.
In a year where indie music has been overshadowed by a pop-dominated chart, the Canadian troupe have stuck out like a sore thumb, their passion, vitality and rampant creativity putting them in a different league from any other guitar band. Let’s face it, they are totally fucking amazing, and we’re lucky to have them around.
We’re living through uncertain times, but Arcade Fire are helping us face the music. And we can’t wait.