The Montreal band are big fans of paying homage to their heroes
Last night (July 7) at Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl, Arcade Fire treated fans to not one, but two covers – a snippet of New Order‘s ‘Temptation’ and their take on Joy Division‘s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. This behaviour is nothing new for the Montreal band. On their ‘Reflektor’ tour, they made their way through a gigantic list of covers, from Prince to INXS, Chuck Berry to ABBA.
Obviously, Win Butler and co aren’t afraid of taking on their heroes’ work, but where should you start if you want to listen to some of the tunes they’ve tackled? Join us as we run through Arcade Fire’s best covers.
25. Feist – ‘I Feel It All’
After a brief lip-sync to Loverboy’s ‘Working For The Weekend’ (because why not?), Arcade Fire delivered this version of Leslie Feist’s 2008 single in Calgary six years after its release. It still sounds just as bouncy and fun in the group’s hands.
24. Blondie – ‘Heart Of Glass’
The band have aired this one several times at their shows, but at Coachella 2014 they upped their game by bringing out Blondie’s Debbie Harry to help them out with it. Régine Chassagne and Harry’s vocals are a match made in heaven.
23. Stevie Wonder – ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’
In Detroit on the ‘Reflektor’ tour, AF returned to the stage to strains of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’. That wasn’t the end of their tribute to the local musician, though, as they quickly jumpstarted a cover of his endlessly upbeat ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’, complete with horns and a mess of guitar noise.
22. Boyz II Men – ‘Motownphilly’
Of all the covers Arcade Fire have done, this is perhaps the most surprising. Horns feature heavily again here, as Win and Richard Reed Parry put on their smoothest voices.
21. Jane’s Addiction – ‘Been Caught Stealing’
Performing this cover seemed to have an adverse effect on Win. During their performance of it in LA, he went along the front of the crowd, stealing cameras and phones from fans. Don’t worry, he did return them later.
20. Suicide – ‘Dream Baby Dream’
In Brooklyn, the band were joined on stage by Talking Heads’ David Byrne, who was dressed as Dracula for some reason (the show was in August). Together, they performed this haunting version of Suicide’s cult classic ‘Dream Baby Dream’, made all the more bewitching by Byrne’s strange outfit choice.
19. The Smiths – ‘London’
Things got a little niche on this cover, with Arcade Fire choosing to delve into The Smiths’ deep cuts and pulling this b-side out of the bag. Performed with the band’s typical gusto, they make the case for it being accepted as a hit.
18. ABBA – ‘Chiquitita’
This ABBA cover might not be the slickest, but it’s certainly one of the most charming AF have ever dropped. With an acoustic guitar, flute and four-part harmonies, the group tried their hand at pop perfection and nearly conquered it.
17. Dead Kennedys – ‘California Uber Alles’
Perhaps not the first song you’d associate with Arcade Fire, but, when they covered the San Francisco punks’ most famous song, they definitely did it justice. Check out Win’s ominous growl as he does his best Jello Biafra impression.
16. The Ramones – ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’
Arcade Fire have long revealed themselves to be big fans of The Ramones and this cover of ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ (featuring Mark Ramone on drums) thrums with passion and adulation. Skip to around the three-minute mark below to feel its punk buzz.
15. Chuck Berry – ‘Roll Over Beethoven’
‘Roll Over Beethoven’ is a classic, but AF managed to give it their own twist without destroying its magic. Listen closely for violin lines underpinning the rock’n’roll melodies and a big, squealing sax solo.
14. The Rolling Stones – ‘The Last Time’
In Régine’s homeland of Haiti, the band took things back to the ’60s, covering one of the Stones’ finest tunes. It’s a ramshackle, blues-y rendition – just how Mick Jagger would like it.
13. Joy Division – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
This may have just been a snippet at the end of ‘Neon Bible’, but even the short burst is beautiful enough to rocket it up the list. It’s mournful and string-laden, and a full version would almost definitely make you well up.
12. The Beatles – ‘Run For Your Life’
Will Butler takes on the role of Lennon here for the Fire’s jaunty take on an-ever golden Beatles gem.
11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Maps’
One of the most heartbreaking songs in modern indie gets a delicate reworking here, Win and Régine taking on Karen O’s longing chorus together.
10. The Clash – ‘I’m So Bored With The USA’
Dedicated to Clash associate and legendary DJ and musician Don Letts, this fiery cover of ‘I’m So Bored With The USA’ is faithful to the London punks’ original and fizzes with anger and energy.
9. Cyndi Lauper – ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’
Régine takes centre stage here, bringing her unbridled ebullience to Cyndi Lauper’s classic.
8. David Bowie – ‘Heroes’
We’re all aware of AF’s history with Bowie by now, but before they collaborated with him they settled for paying tribute in covers of songs like ‘Heroes’. Here, they capture the track’s aspirational joy perfectly.
7. Talking Heads – ‘This Must Be The Place’
The most covered song by Arcade Fire comes from David Byrne’s back catalogue. ‘This Must Be A Place’ was a regular fixture for the group between 2004 and 2005, so no wonder they sound so good playing it. Practice makes perfect, after all.
6. John Lennon – ‘Gimme Some Truth’
It’s hard to cover Lennon and not sound lacking, but AF pulled it off here. Odd synth sounds infiltrate the former Beatle’s political rantings, bringing an eerie edge to the song.
5. Bob Dylan – ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’
This lilting rendition of the song Dylan wrote while in post-motorcycle accident seclusion fits Arcade Fire’s early folksy sound perfectly. If you didn’t know better, you might think it was an original by the band.
4. Bruce Springsteen – ‘Born In The USA’
Performed at an Obama rally in 2009, this version of The Boss’ own national anthem rides on twinkling piano chimes and the distant echo of violin. Exquisite.
3. The Beatles – ‘Helter Skelter’
‘Helter Skelter’ is one of The Beatles’ most chaotic tunes and AF do a solid job of recreating that carnage here, all wild riffs and howled vocals.
2. Sam Cooke – ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’
This soulful version of Sam Cooke’s classic came at another event in support of Obama. It’s hopeful message is delivered by Win with passion and grace.
1. David Bowie – ‘Five Years’
The band have covered this Bowie classic several times over the years, but this 2005 version from Austin City Limits festival might be their best. Win’s shaky voice gives it a gorgeous, tender quality that’s intimate and vulnerable.
Once you’re done making your way through Arcade Fire’s best covers, prepare yourself for a whole new batch of their own tunes. New album ‘Everything Now’ is due for release on July 28. They’ve released three songs from it so far – the ABBA-meets Talking Heads title track, the narcissism tackling ‘Creature Comfort’ and ‘Signs Of Life’, which was debuted live in Scunthorpe last month.