Live music - Arcade Fire

Marlay Park, Dublin

Accompanied by a light show worthy of an alien invasion and towering geysers of confetti, Arcade Fire’s first Irish concert in nearly three years is an avant-garde tour de force.

Headlining a near-sold out Marlay Park, the Montreal six-piece deliver a rollickingly off-beam performance, the centre piece of which — a symbolic ripping up of Miley Cyrus’s portrait by a man dressed as the Pope — seems both specific to Ireland and a cooly calculated internet meme in the making.

By convention, bands grow blander as their fanbase swells. Arcade Fire appear determined to push in the opposite direction — they certainly were not in a rush to win new fans with this year’s Reflektor album, a salvo of mirrorball noir that that lassoed their swooping sound to producer James Murphy’s hammered-down beats.

Live, the new tunes scream acquired taste — so it is all the more striking that the group, led by the rangy Win Butler and his wife Regine Chassagne, have chosen to anchor the set with them.

With its ramshackle krautrock grooves and anti-social media lyrics, the single ‘Reflektor’, for instance, is a not entirely convincing muddle of the avant-garde and the reactionary. Had it not been so danceable it would probably have felt a mess.

Similarly the Canadians appear to trip up on their ambition to sound as un-Arcade Fire as possible on ‘Normal Person’ and ‘Joan Of Arc’, skittish dirges that come off like hollow exercises in cleverness. Divorced from a bombastic stage show featuring the standard psychedelic videos and blockbuster strobes it might, you fear, have been heavy going. Then, you can afford to try the audience’s patience when you have in reserve womping hits of the calibre of ‘Rebellion (Lies)’, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) and Neighbourhood Number #3 (Power Out). As these songs attest, Arcade Fire can summon instances of transcendence at the snap of a finger. What’s interesting is that they chose to deploy such moments relatively sparingly. It’s a reminder that, for all their success, they remain unchallenged as stadium rock’s resident awkward squad. Who would have it any other way?


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