"for the happy, the sad, I don't want to be, another page in your diary"

Friday 2 September 2022

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire appear in Birmingham a few days after sexual misconduct allegations were made against the band's frontman Win Butler. We park in the multi story next to the arena but getting to the gig is difficult from there, steps everywhere and I can still barely walk.

Somehow we make it to the arena and sup some eye wateringly expensive lager as we wait to see whether the rest of the audience or even the band will turn up.

The allegations by four women followed an investigation by American music website Pitchfork. Allegations taken seriously by many but suspiciously by others as they were revealed just as the band were about to head off on a European tour.

The band's support, Feist, played in Dublin on the first two dates but then quit the tour and returned home to Canada. So we have no support tonight just a DJ with some maracas who goes on forever and really starts to annoy after a while.

The arena is dead quiet and there are loads of empty seats so we are starting to suspect a big boycott but in the end I think they may have just been avoiding the DJ as the place fills up as Arcade Fire take the stage at 9pm despite the arena putting out messages saying the start had been moved from 9pm to 8:30pm. Seems no one told the band.

It’s not full but then it wasn't sold out anyway so it's hard to tell how many have stayed at home. There are gaps in the seats which probably doesn’t make sense unless people have stayed away. Therefore it would have been nice if everyone had just shuffled up a bit as we were miles from the stage. It wasn't quite as bad last time I was at the NIA but this is almost binoculars territory and it reminds why I usually skip arena gigs unless I can stand at the front.

Being so far away dulls the experience a touch but that apart from that they are very good. The crowd's enthusiasm seems undimmed by what may or not may not have gone on and nor did the band look phased. It was the first time I have seen them live and they certainly didn't disappoint.

Making up for the size of the arena, the band played the first song on a second stage in the middle of the arena on which the seven-piece band somehow managed to squeeze themselves as they opened with 'Rebellion (Lies)'.

The band then transferred to the main stage for ‘Age of Anxiety I’ from the new album ‘We’, their sixth LP, from which much of the set is understandably pulled. There are some excellent oldies though ‘Ready to Start’, ‘Creature Comfort’, ‘Keep the Car Running’ and an excellent ‘The Suburbs’ among others while ‘Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)’ from the new album comes accompanied by multi-coloured inflatables rising up from the stage.

The band's sets are never predictable and they are well known for mixing up sets lists which they do tonight with first appearances of the tour for ‘We Used to Wait’ and ‘Half Light I’. Something that more bands should do.

Butler’s wife Regine Chassagne probably steals the show with ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’ heading off into the crowd in party mode with a security guard in hot pursuit.

After closing with ‘Everything Now’ the band return to the second stage for the encore playing the full nine minutes of ‘End of the Empire I-IV’ in all its pretentious glory.

The band have been doing different cover versions every night so far roughly linked to the area they are in. After U2 and the Cranberries in Ireland I'm not totally sure of the relevance The Verve, ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ and Wigan to Birmingham but then the Cranberries aren't from Dublin either. After which they close a very pleasant evening with ‘Wake Up’.

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