Before the curtain fell on Arcade Fire at Earls Court on the first of two gargantuan shows, a mirror-clad figure stood alone on a second stage in the centre of the room. He turned his hands against the light and shot it around before the curtains fell and the title track from last year’s Reflektor landed. It was pretty much the only calm moment of the whole night. The Reflektor jamboree has been globetrotting since the LP’s release and this two-night stop at Earls Court will be one of many zeniths, the grandest of which awaits us at Worthy Farm at the end of the month. Swinging straight in to Flashbulb Eyes, the Montreal tribe used the super sized show to showcase their ability to break you up, put you back together and make you move better than you did before.
Their pre-Reflektor era was brought to life through performances of the first three Neighbourhood songs from their debut and a performance of The Suburbs preceded by Win Butler calling against the demolition of Earls Court in order to make condos. “The cheaper the better, hey?” he said before launching in to the timeless tale of breaking free of residential mundanity and “moving past the feeling”.
Their long-standing link to Haitian culture was reincarnated last year in the rhythmic shapes and bone-rattling flicker of Reflektor. When they perform cuts like Joan of Arc and Normal Person they are clearly a band revelling in a celebratory sound that was born out of crisis. When Win tells the crowd that £1 from every ticket has gone to Partners In Health, the feeling of rescue that drums through the Arcade Fire blood flow seems fully accomplished. It came to life in even greater fashion when the secondary stage was used again for a routine from a transgender dance troop during We Exist. This split stage setup continued when Win and his wife and bandmate Regime sang It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus) to one another across the crowd. As Shuf touched upon at the end of last year, Reflektor works as a remedy and this mammoth tour is another leg of the treatment. They perform like there’s absolutely nothing left and, in turn, make you feel like anything can be put right.
With Afterlife acting as the centrepiece of the concert’s setlist, the most basic mantras of the band’s ethos ring through the room. Arcade Fire manage to set the place ablaze and stick around for the afterglow. However frenzied the pandemonium gets, they stitch up the wreckage till it returns to a place of supersymmetry. Their live show fits in as a fundamental piece of the Reflektor riddle; you can stare for as long as you like, you can scream and shout in an empty room, you can even go downtown and hang with the modern kids. Keep staring, but if they’ve got anything to do with it, you’ll end up looking back at yourself.
Words: Duncan Harrison