Wake Up, Deer!

Arcade Fire Phoenix ParkI had absolutely no plans on giving reviews of gigs on this blog but after witnessing a great event last night I just felt compelled to write about the joys of an Arcade Fire gig. It may be the fifth time that the Canadian band have played in Ireland this year, but it was the first Waffler has been at having previously been confined to a worn-out video tape of their performance on Jools Holland nearly three years ago.

I must confess, I was one of those ‘Arcade Fire? Bleh!’ people at the very start of their ascension, embittered at how such an obscure Montreal band could suddenly be ‘cool’ with people who knew feck all about music. Yes it was ‘word-of-mouth’ that proved to be the winner in Ireland but the last time that happened David Gray was packing out the Point for a week’s run. No offence to David but really, it’s music that can gladly be stuck on on a cosy night-in with a glass of red wine. Arcade Fire was a little different. I had heard some songs but wasn’t that enamoured. Instead, it took the best music show on the telly to bring Arcade Fire smackbang into my life, and in particular their performance of Neighborhood #3 ‘Power Out’ that awoke me from my sofa late that Friday night. How could a xylophone sound so exciting?

Since then of course, the Arcade Fire star has risen and risen. I bought Funeral, decided I was a little harsh on those people who knew feck all about music and realised that they really were the most exciting thing to come out of Canada since… well…? Anyway the obscure band from Montreal has found success everywhere and nowhere is a better barometer of how far they’ve come than Ireland. Two dates, 10,000 people each night in a massive tent in the Phoenix Park at the end of October. Surely not! They sold out in nanoseconds and Waffler was counting his lucky stars that he managed to beat the crowd. In truth, they could have sold double the amount that they did… and still have a few whingers left hanging.

Phoenix Park on a freezing cold October night is not somewhere you’d bank on going to a good gig for, but with the redevelopment of the Point, music promoters have found that renting tents from redundant circuses is probably the best bet in order to get the punters in. Just mind the deer on your way in.

The crowd itself was a remarkably mixed bag. There were the usual indie kids dotted around the tent, there were the usual ‘one-gig-a-year’ crowd too – but more near the back – and then there were the men in there 50s and 60s who obviously were so impressed with David Bowie giving the band the thumbs-up they went to investigate themselves. It kind of reminded me what would happen if all the badness of Oxegen was wiped out of the equation (drunk teenagers only interested in seeing All Saints).

As for Arcade Fire, they were well up for it. Starting off with Black Mirror and then speeding into Keep the Car Running really gave the crowd something to whet the appetite. The stage was perfect for the occasion with 5 circular screens dotted around the stage and a backdrop of red velvet, all providing black and white images of the band in real-time. Think if U2’s 4 screen ‘bandwatch’ thingamajig was redecorated by a bunch of art-conscious twentysomethings. And really the thing that kept cropping into my mind was not that we were watching a gig but a 1hr 20min long piece of art. The artists involved have more energy and panache than any other band. It becomes some sort of organised chaos. When the likes of Richard Parry and Win’s brother William start using drumsticks to beat anything within sight (including the stage itself), you kinda get the idea.

Admittedly the ‘one-gig-a-year’ brigade found parts of the setlist a bit boring. The chatter during the likes of Ocean of Noise and My Body is a Cage was incredibly annoying, as the former especially was belted out with so much energy and beauty by Win Butler. I even turned to find a bloke texting during those two particular tracks. But they were back onside within minutes.

The final 25 minutes of the ‘piece of art’ brought the gig to an incredibly moving climax. Antichrist Television Blues, Power Out, Rebellion (Lies), and Intervention brought the crowd into raptures while Wake Up is probably the reason why so many (such as Shane) say it’s not merely going to a gig, it’s worshiping at the great altar of the Church of Arcade Fire. With 10,000 people in a big tent greeting the final song in a manner Waffler has never witnessed before (hands in the air, singing along with the opening lines), it really did become like a 10,000 strong gospel choir than an audience… maybe with less good voices.

People left with a smile on their face and the random screams of ‘Lies! Lies!’ indicate either the drunkenness of a certain proportion of the crowd or the overall joyousness of what they witnessed. Not even being squashed into a 20ft wide fenced-off exit could deter the good vibes. If it was any other gig you’d hear cries of ‘Will ya bleedin’ stop pushin’?!’ instead of ‘Lies! Lies!’ Even the security was in good form. The bloke beside me who was squashed and couldn’t see a thing thanks to a remarkably tall man was offered a torch by the security woman beside us. To shine a light into his eyes? “No, to clatter him across the head with!”

Luckily no deer were harmed during the Arcade Fire gig…

Here’s that first appearance on Jools Holland. Watch out for the xylophone.

And here’s a sample of last night’s worship (huge thank you to redbok!)…

More :: Canadian Stars bring perfect pop to the park (Irish Independent)

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~ by waffler on October 25, 2007.

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