Arcade Fire cover snippets of Nirvana and Sex Pistols at Lisbon’s Nos Alive festival

Fellow Montreal artist Grimes also appeared at closing day of sold-out event

Arcade Fire last night (July 10) covered portions of Nirvana’s ‘All Apologies’ and Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save The Queen’ during their headline set at Lisbon’s Nos Alive festival.

The bars of the Nirvana song introduced ‘We Exist’, while the Sex Pistols verse was strummed by frontman Win Butler at the end of ‘Keep The Car Running’.

The festival show was an unusual fixture in the group’s diary. Their last tour, promoting fourth album ‘Reflektor’, ended in August 2014. In the intervening two years they’ve played just a handful of shows, most recently a January 2016 tribute to the late David Bowie in New York.

One of just three dates this summer including an informal warm-up show in Barcelona, their appearance closing the 10th edition of the Lisbon festival was, therefore, something of an anomaly – if one that delighted the crowd.

Multi-instrumentalist Will Butler recently reported that a new Arcade Fire album might arrive as soon as spring 2016, but no new material was performed for the Portuguese crowd. Instead, the band played a well-paced set that drew equally from their four albums to date. After opening with ‘Ready To Start’, the group quickly made clear their intention to play hits and fan-favourites, despatching with ‘Sprawl II’ and ‘Reflektor’ within the first five tracks. A silver-clad Regine Chassagne danced joyously during her lead vocal performance of ‘Sprawl II’, while Win Butler, with slicked-back hair and white, cowboy-style suit, cut an imposing figure on stage.

Visually, the show borrowed a number of elements from the band’s celebrated Reflektor shows of 2013 and 2014, including the handheld mirrors Regine used to reflect beams or light, the large mirrors suspended from the roof of the stage and the appearance of the papier macher-headed doubles that played a part in every show on that tour. Singing to his own doppelganger during a bouncy ‘Here Comes The Night Time’, Win Butler draped a Portugal football scarf over the dancer’s shoulders. Portugal play France in the Euro 2016 final tonight (July 10). A confetti cannon brought that song to a close in a blizzard of colour.

The show ended with the euphoric ‘Wake Up’ which – as has become traditional – saw the crowd singing along even after the band had left the stage.

It’s fair to say that the closing night of the festival belonged to daughters and sons of Montreal. Also proudly showing her colours – though not football ones – was Grimes, who appeared for her 1.30 set on the Heineken Stage wearing a rainbow flag like a super-hero’s cape. It was the multi-talented singer-songwriter’s first appearance in Portugal, and judging by the fevered reaction from the crowd, it was long overdue. Accompanied by two dancers and guitarist Hana, who opened the same stage in her own right at 6pm, Grimes played a high-energy set drawing heavily from last year’s ‘Art Angels’ and including between-album single ‘Go’ and an extended version of breakthrough single ‘Oblivion’.

Elsewhere during the day, Band Of Horses played the Nos stage, Paus drew a big crowd for their poundingly intense performance and M83 arrived late for their 1am slot, but soon won the crowd back around. Earlier on the Heineken Stage, Swedish singer-songwriter José González played a set that included a number of tracks from last year’s ‘Vestiges & Claws’ album plus covers of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Hand On Your Heart’, Arthur Russell’s ‘This Is How We Walk On The Moon’, Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ and The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’.