Arcade Fire - MEN Arena, Manchester - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Arcade Fire - MEN Arena, Manchester

by Nic Friar Rating: Release Date:

A quick word on the Worst and Greatest Show in the World. Last Wednesday I set out to see a small, fairly unknown band at the MEN just for kicks. They were called Archway Blaze or Fire at the Amusements or something.... No wait... It was only bloody ARCADE FIRE!

As an amuse bouche to the musical feast we were about to enjoy, the chef sent onto the stage a group of skinny, upper-middle class looking boy-men wearing imitation Savile Row suits. "Oh, it's Noah and the Whale and Eric Clapton is on keys!" (Please have a look, you'll see what I mean). They played about seven songs all of which sounded like a 14-year-old girl had just listened to her first Bob Dylan album and cumbersomely fallen onto a synthesiser with the happy meter turned to eleven! They trudged through their 'down-lifting' set, finally crescendoing on there latest hit 'H.U.R.R.Y.U.P.A.N.D.F.I.N.I.S.H.S.O.I.C.A.N.W.A.T.C.H.A.R.C.A.D.E.F.I.R.E.'

Which, thank God, they did and the main course arrived on a bed of relief. The "support" act had finished and the expectation of seeing one of the great band of a generation began... Enter Arcade Fire...

Needless to say they were awe-inspiring. How a band with so many members can produce sounds like a 19th century Amish painting riding a rhythmical motorbike on a racetrack made of a thick, gloopy melody without stepping on each others toes is astounding. The percussion sounds like some sort of pleasurable rhythmic torture with a family-like structure of intense stage presence and meaningful lyrics to back them up.

They opened with the obvious choice of 'Ready to Start', sending the crowd (which contained fans aged 14-65) into spontaneous rapture after the painful drone of Noah and his cadaverous Whale. In 'Sprawl II', the bands homage to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, Regine's almost shrieking, yet beautiful voice adds dexterity to an already poignant song. The unmistakable, sing-along-er came in the form of 'Wake Up'. Unfortunately, the Manchester crowd didn't have the fierce tenacity of crowds I have seen in the past, but the overwhelming sense of togetherness which the song brings could still be felt by everyone.

'Neighbourhood #3' ended the pre-encore set with a huge, rousing kick to the teeth. As the lyrics suggest. Halfway through the song, when the grungy, descending guitar riff entered the arena, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were in some sort of '77 style punk gig. (Including the old lady next to me, hitting people with her bus pass. Although this could have just been in my imagination.)

The more than welcome 20 minute encore began with the 'mother approved grunge thrasher', 'Month of May'. This swooped into 'Rebellion (Lies)', reminding the crowd of the timeless power of the first album. Finally, to bring the house down, we had 'The Suburbs (+Continued)' which resembled the band slipping on a gold knuckle duster just before they threw the final blow to the warm up act and the rest of the bands of 2011 who can mealy watch from a distance as Win and the Killer Whale swallow everything in the musical sea.

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