GT Music

Review: Arcade Fire at London's Hyde Park

The band headlined the first night of the British Summer Time concert series...

The last eight months have flown by, haven't they? It was the beginning of November when Arcade Fire first brought their seminal fourth album Reflektor – arguably their magnum opus, if you pardon the Latin – to Camden's Roundhouse.

And last night, on a beautifully sunny July evening, the Canadian indie-rockers finally laid the album to rest with their last UK gig for the foreseeable future, playing to tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of people, headlining the first night of Hyde Park's annual British Summer Time concert series.

Fresh off the back of two sold out (or thereabouts) gigs at London's Earls Court and a triumphant Glastonbury headline set, some feared Win Butler and his band of merry misfits wouldn't have much left in the tank to play their biggest UK gig to date. But from the opening guitar licks of Normal Person and frontman Win's opening snarl of "d'you like rock and roll music..." soon silenced any doubters.

Arcade Fire are the band of a generation. They (almost effortlessly) release genre-defying, seminal albums, each one uniquely different to the last, while continuing to push the boundaries of their lives shows, introducing elements of performance art and spectacular visuals. They capture the innocence of youth, the bitterness of adolescence and the wide-eyed exuberance of adulthood through the emotional journeys which make up their songs, whether they be backed by ethereal string arrangements, cathedral-esque organ sounds or dirty garage rock riffs.

But more importantly, they speak for the common man. It might not seem like it behind the neon face paint and the less-accessible tracks from (second album) Neon Bible, but speaking before We Exist, a song which has quite frankly for all intents and purposes become an equal rights anthem, when Win Butler tells the throng before him that we were all born "perfect, just the way we are", we genuinely believe he means that.

Musically they were on form, off course. The band are, and never have been, flawless, but that's what makes their live performances so incredible special, so incendiary. Whether it's Win's voice cracking during a particularly raucous rendition of Tunnels, Regine fumbling one of her lines in The Sprawl because she's made an emotional connection with a member of the crowd during The Sprawl, or multi-instrumentalalist William Butler collapsing into a heap with his singular drum during the refrain of Rebellion (Lies) after spontaneously climbing into the crowd, it's the rough that comes with the smooth which creates for a unique experience. Oh, and for our money, the riff from Power Out is one of the most under-appreciated pieces of music in the last two decades.

This might just be overly-sensitive, sentimental bollocks, but we've reviewed a lot of Arcade Fire gigs over the years. London's Hyde Park was our fourth in the last nine months, and each time we leave with a sense of purpose, with a sense of belonging, and with a feeling that we're not alone. And, speaking for the LGBT community, that's a rare talent to possess.

And as the thousands leave Hyde Park to cram themselves onto the tube home, singing the iconic refrain from last-song-of-the-encore Wake Up, and the band go away to work on their fifth album, the world is going to be a lot less colourful, a lot less magical and a lot less exciting without them. Come back soon.

Oh, but on a side note British Summer Time, please stop segregation of your crowds. Reserving half of the front of the stage for hospitality and guest ruins the atmosphere, not only for the band on stage but for the paying customers, too.

Words Ryan Butcher, @ryanjohnbutcher
Image JF Lalonde

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