This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) Gobshout.com. It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...
It is a generally accepted fact that Arcade Fire are the best band in the world. Last decade, Radiohead were the muso’s band of choice, but now Win Butler et al. are firmly in charge. The option to see them in this tiny venue (capacity 1,300) was one that should be seized. Tickets were available for the truly dedicated who pre-ordered the album and were lucky enough to be drawn out of the hat. And when I say lucky, I mean really fucking lucky.
Hackney Empire is an amazing venue, a turn of the century music hall with all the gilt edges and cherubs that go therewith. It seems to be the perfect venue for tonight’s comeback. Arcade Fire have been away for three years since their pair of gigs at Alexander Palace in 2007. Now, with a new album on the way, this is a warm-up gig for the round of festival appearances that lies ahead. The sense of anticipation is tangible.
When they take the stage, it is instantly as though they have never been away. This effect is enhanced by the fact that they launch in with two new songs, literally picking up where they left off. Ready to Start and Modern Man bode incredibly well for the new album. By the end of the second song, the previously presentable Butler is already drenched in sweat. This is a pattern that does not let up. How every member of the band don’t need medical re-hydration by the end of the gig remains a mystery to me.
From then on, the classic anthems and new songs blend seamlessly together, suggesting that the new album will be the equal of what came before. “This song is called Yes Boats Yes” says Win before launching into No Cars Go. A few songs later, during the end of Rococo, Win climbs into the audience and finishes the song lying on his back, carried aloft by the wave of adoration.
Although the public address system in the venue is not quite up to Arcade Fire’s complex yet loud sound, they manage to render all their anthems in their full glory. During Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out), the audience pogos as though lives are at stake, and when this segues into Rebellion (Lies) and on into the hefty new track Month of May, I begin to think that I might not make it out alive, so drained am I by the encore break. Before that though, we are treated to a rare outing for Crown of Love, one of Funeral’s greatest hidden gems.
The encore, comprising Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels), Keep The Car Running and Wake Up leaves the audience gasping for breath, and the band leave the stage grinning like maniacs. They deserve to. When you’re the best band in the world, it must be amazing to be up there on that stage.