Friday headliners Arcade Fire prove a disappointing draw, at least in terms of pure numbers. Perhaps it’s the twin attractions of Fatboy Slim and Simian Mobile Disco (or, heaven forbid, David Guetta) scattered across the site, but there can’t be more than 5,000 watching the Canadians tuck into their hits. The campsite rumour that -only 200′ turned up is farcically ridiculous, of course. It’s immediately clear, however, that such a popular alternative band is not made for a festival this commercial.
Arcade Fire, though, are not to be put off. Despite shortening their set to around an hour and a half (State had our doubts that they could stretch to two hours), Win and Regine’s chemistry is in full flow, with the dual-front and six-person backing band performing like this is their last show. A host of new songs come to the fore – including a playful, energetic rendition of -Modern Man’ – amongst alternative hits like the flamboyant -Haiti’ and all three versions of -Neighbourhood’.
At times, it’s clear that Arcade Fire’s more experimental elements don’t sit well with large parts of the crowd, but in more recognisable moments like closer -Wake Up’ and mid-set highlight -Rebellions (Lies)’ they have Oxegen jumping. The entire show is performed in front of affecting, head-spinning graphics, featuring the likes of a journey down a Canadian highway, and an empty, concrete box room.
Despite being notable heavier live than they come across on record, Arcade Fire are still a fairly mellow experience, more of a -stand back and soak it up’ band than one to jump around too, and leave the tuneful echoes of -Wake Up’ soaring through the air all the way back to the campsites. The new material is every bit as enticing as the band’s more dated content, and full of all those pace changes and elevated vocals. There’s one thing that stand out far above everything else: this is a stunning band playing to an audience that just doesn’t care as much as it should. Watch out for the strangely rocky -Month Of May’ and -Ready To Start’ when -The Suburbs’ – the title track of which rips into us pretentious city folks – hits the shelves next month. Arcade Fire has lost none of their power to seduce and inspire.