What happened when the Canadians' 'Everything Now' tour called into London
The York Hall in Bethnal Green is most certainly not a gig venue; rather, it’s known in the sporting world as the iconic home of British boxing. So the bread and butter of this place is not the unfettered, artistic expression of live music, but the controlled violence of pugilistic encounters. But the stage tonight is smack bang in the middle of the room, where the boxing ring would normally be; the crowd surround the stage on all sides, and all around the balcony are hung the ‘EN’ symbols of Arcade Fire’s new album, which in another context could easily be taken as a sporting emblem.
The crowd tonight, packing out this wooden floored, curved roofed hall, aren’t baying for blood, but there is tangible anticipation of another kind crackling in the air. This is an extremely small venue for Arcade Fire (who have form for playing unusual East End venues at the London launches of new records – seven years ago, for ‘The Suburbs’, the band played the equally iconic but much more opulent Hackney Empire, barely a mile down the road). So the fans here are expecting something special, something unique, and you can feel the collective will for that to be fulfilled, intensified by both the feeling of intimacy and the physical proximity to the stage.
The band are introduced, in true boxing style, by a local ring announcer… “in the red corner representing Canada, the US and Haiti.. the makers of melody… here come the un-de-feated Ar… cade… Fire!”. Opening with a deliberately slow few bars of the new record’s title track ‘Everything Now’, a thrilling electricity shoots through the room when the band drop into the song proper; to see the entirety of a London crown dance with such joy and abandon is a rare thing.
Of course, anthems like ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ and ‘Neighborhood #2’ feel massive. But the new material is well received too, in this atmosphere of excitement and collective good will; ‘Signs of Life’ feels like a slice of serious ’70s disco, while later in the set the vaguely New Order-esque ‘Creature Comfort’ has most of the crowd mouthing every word.
The new stuff sees Arcade Fire take a step forward from the sometimes overworked feel of ‘Reflektor’; it’s tighter, more controlled and more exciting, while lyrically the theme of our modern desire for instant gratification feels spot on.
And the ecstatic fervour of this audience is a special thing. The lighting guy plunges the hall into darkness for a drop in ‘Neighborhood #1’, and that brief darkness, like almost every other sensory experience tonight, is thrilling. ‘Wake Up’ closes the set, and is simply massive. Win has been pretty much silent between songs but at the end seems genuinely overwhelmed by this reaction, thanking the fans who’ve been with them since the start. At the York Hall, Arcade Fire are true heavyweights.
Arcade Fire @ York Hall, London, Tuesday 4 July
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