LIVE: Arcade Fire – Utilita Arena, Birmingham

This was an experience unlike any other. The decision of whether to attend presented a moral quandary. The journey to the gig was filled with a constant refreshing of social media to see if a support act would fill the gap vacated by Feist, whilst also wincingly checking to see if the show had been cancelled altogether. Twitter was ablaze with people condemning the band, demanding refunds and imploring the venue to stop the event in the midst of the allegations against lead singer Win Butler. Slowly traipsing into a gig that is shrouded in controversy was a unique precedent. The crowd stood tentatively waiting with no true support act on display. Chatter and mumblings rife about the sexual allegations. You cast your eye across the arena and spot sections of empty seats, and you’re left with confusion and doubt at the pit of your stomach. Should we be here? That sense of unease and trepidation amongst the crowd was palpable.

This wasn’t the recipe for a great gig. Before their arrival onto stage, you felt that Arcade Fire would really have to pull something special out the bag in order to relax the crowd and put a smile on everyone’s face. What they proceeded to deliver was truly exceptional.

Win Butler Performing in Dublin. Photo – Debbie Hickey

An immersive cinematic experience intertwined with a setlist that offered no reprieve. A sensory delight that lifted the spirits of an entire arena. A collective journey through this whimsical world Arcade Fire had constructed. It was utter ingenuity choosing to have two separate stages; one placed in the centre of the arena that the band scurried across to open and close the show. This decision demonstrates how the Montreal alt rockers, 19 years in, continue to innovate; painstakingly obsessing over every minute detail to deliver the most cohesive performance possible.

A third of the setlist was allocated to the latest album ‘WE’ with its luscious gentle percussion serving as a bridge between their biggest hits. Across the 2 hour performance Arcade Fire delivered seismic blow after blow, spreading their wings by utilising an array of stadium shaking anthems they have at their disposal. A cover of the Verve’s ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ was an unexpected delight during the encore before ‘Wake Up’ concluded the affair.

In the mire of dark context surrounding the show Arcade Fire successfully managed to create a vacuum in which they delivered live music and visuals of the highest calibre that very few could even dream of matching.


Conan Cavanagh

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