The reasons I never ‘got’ Arcade Fire remain unclear. It may have been that I grew sick of people ordering me to love them upon my arrival home from a couple of years away. Returning to Ireland in 2005, it was all Orcade Foyre this, Orcade Foyre that. Jump forward five years, and I’m exiting the O2 breathless and emotional and struggling to think of the last group that has made a real, tangible connection with their audience on such a level. Boringly, U2 is all I can muster.
It should also be noted that tonight probably wasn’t even their best Irish show ever. Opening with the chugging insistence of ‘Ready To Start’, they were greeted by a white noise of welcome but still had to get us out of bed, as it were. ‘Stand the fuck up!” barked Win Butler to the seated tiers before ‘Month of May’’s staccato drone tore off in their direction. This show was happening, even if the crowd had to be prodded once or twice. ‘Neighborhood #2 (Laika)’ sees another plea to stand and be counted, but the malaise is then well and truly bludgeoned by ‘No Cars Go’. Salutes and a ‘HEY!’ chant that could split the ice outside give it the semblance of a fascist political rally. Arcade Fire’s aural Red Bull has found the bloodstream.
The audience are as proud of muscular new LP The Suburbs as the band are, swishing along to the title track and its hushed Thomas Newman-style outro, but the bar did get a little busier during ‘Modern Man’. It’s like watching two old friends catch up. “We know it’s hard times… politicians are fucking you over,” sighs Butler, unselfconsciously, at one point. The building roars in agreement.
The octet are finished with foreplay though, and with the encore in sight, they decide it’s time to slip it in. Butler wonders aloud which of their O2 performances will be the best, and that in their experience it’s usually the second. The O2 jeers in response. ‘Well then show us what you’ve fucking got. 1, 2, 3,…’ he snarls before ‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’ is detonated. Watching the group stroll away, the audience realises they have limited time left with their old friends. When they return to more white noise for a final brace of songs, everybody – everybody – wants to make up for initial lethargy. ‘Wake Up’ unites each last living voice in the former Point Depot. The chorus is overwhelming, like a winning try against England in Croke Park. We file out into the cold along with 13,000 or so others, our buttons firmly pushed. Now I get it.
Photos by Alessio Michelini.
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