“To everyone who felt uncomfortable dressing up, I’m not sorry,” said Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler as he gazed down upon a sea of suits and fancy headwear. Having already made the superhuman effort to secure gold dust tickets to this London comeback show, fans had then been informed that formal attire or costume was “mandatory”.
It wasn’t quite no tiara, no entry, but it was a small sign of a shifting of the workload away from this most industrious of bands. Even with 10 musicians on stage and some pretty snazzy outfits among them too, Arcade Fire didn’t quite have the fire of old.
Guitarist Richard Reed Parry was disappointingly static, having apparently done something to his back earlier in the day. William Butler compensated gamely, moving so furiously behind his keyboard that he barely found a moment to play it.
His brother Win staggered about in the giant model head of recent promotional clips and allowed the front row to batter his guitar at the conclusion of Neighborhood #3 (Power Out). It was one of a handful of older songs in a set that drew heavily from the dancier new album, Reflektor. There have been grumbles about its length but tracks such as It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus) and the magnificent Afterlife were big enough to get lost in here, racing along on irresistable beats.
They have another new crowd pleaser in Here Comes the Night Time, which prompted a confetti explosion when it reached its thrilling gear change. Meanwhile, the guitar squall of Normal Person showed that they may have more dancefloor polish but can still make a dirty racket.
Inevitable arena dates to come should see more balance to the setlist and the band back to full power. Until then, few will be regretting shining their shoes for this one.