Sometimes it’s worth making a quick escapade to see one of the greatest musical shows of the moment, and the Reflektor Tour 2014 deserves each and all of the hours of lost sleep, Arcade Fire play in a different league and they have to be treated as such, and if that meant an express journey to London, so be it.
The music culture in the United Kingdom is enviable and the proof is in the music you can listen in any pub in the city centre: nothing to do with what in Spain is called “”. That’s why it’s not strange at all to see in an Arcade Fire concert, groups of youngsters wanting to give it all jumping in the middle of the concert hall and refined men in suits accompanied by their jewellery wearing wives or in groups of other men in suits or jewellery wearing ladies; the groups don”t matter, what I mean to point out is the eclecticism of London’s public (in this case).
The doors of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre opened at 6 pm and a few minutes later 2Manydjs started warming up the atmosphere; the dance floor wasn”t yet half full but you could sense something big was going to happen. At quarter past seven, the young and stunning New Zealander star Lorde appeared in the stage as second lead-in for the Canadians. Lorde’s mise-en-scène is as minimalist as her music: two musicians, one at the keyboard, synthesizer and pre-recorded sounds and the other at the drum set and then her, with very long hair, in a grey dress and moving with so many spasms it almost seemed she was possessed. 45 minutes of concert where she overview her, for now, short musical trajectory. They still made us wait for another half hour after Lorde’s concert before they started.
You could write a different article focused on any of the members of Arcade Fire, because each of them has a unique personality; the greatness of this band’s live performance resides in being able to maintain the balance as a group while giving each member their moment of glory, without there sometimes being a clear leader (with Win’s –their founder– permission). All of them are multi-instrumentalists and during their shows they exchange positions, giving the performance even more dynamism.
At half past eight a man in a suit and a hat covered completely in mirrors appeared in a stage in the middle of the hall, the camera recording him, and you could see the projection on the screens at the sides of the stage (made out of four hexagons). The curtain fell and Win told us what was coming, “Reflektor!”. To avoid the reflections he wore black eyeliner, like a mask. In the middle of the song he took a spectator’s mobile phone and recorded them a video. They won”t be changing that phone for a long time.
The show isn”t conceived randomly, everything is thought of, even the smallest detail isn”t trivial, and neither is the setlist, that’s why they start with “Reflektor” and end with “Wake Up”, throwing us a message which you can understand as you please (It’s just a Reflektor… Wake up!). In the visual department the synergy is achieved by the moving stage (made out of hexagonal mirrors that moved and visually altered the scene), the bass drum, which was also a mirror, the violinist who wore in his clothes a big A and F, the videos projected in the giant screens could have been part of any video art project, and what I liked the most: the image projected in the giant screens at the sides of the stage reflected what occurred on scene, but unlike other macro concerts, where these monitors are put to facilitate the assistant’s vision, these had a peculiarity, they were mirrored images. Damn you, Arcade Fire and your global sense of entertainment!
The second song was “Flashbulb Eyes”, an ode to the soul-eating camera myth (“what if the camera really does take your soul…”) and to the absence of fear (“hit me with your flashbulb eyes, I Got nothing to hide”). Win phagocyted us when he borrowed one of the cameras recording the show and pointed it to the audience. In the next song, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”, they revisited their first album “Funeral” (2004, Merge Records). In the concert there was time to remember their entire and wonderful repertoire.
At this point, Win’s peculiar brother, William Butler (splendid Oscar nominee for Best Music – Original Score, for the film “Her”) was wearing a kind of TV set on the head were other images where being projected (I”m sure they all had meaning). They kept going with their first album and played “Funeral” and then went back to Reflektor with “Joan of Arc”.
With “Month of May” they started the journey through their third album, “The Suburbs” (2010, Merge Records). Then back to Reflektor with “We Exist” while the screen showed a dance happening in the second stage in the middle of the hall (where 2Manydjs where playing). And the journey through their older records continued with “The Suburbs”, “The Suburbs (Continued)”, “Ready to Start”, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, “Intervention”, “No Cars Go” and “Haiti”, handing over the protagonism to the wonderful Règine, preparing us for the next song, the one that resumed the new album back to the setlist. While playing “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” Règine appeared magically in the other stage, representing Orpheus and Eurydice’s myth. The music stayed at the end of the song and Règine, surprisingly, appeared back again in the main stage to sing “Sprawl II (Mountain Beyond Mountains)”, being the centre of attention for this song so Blondie-like, jumping around the stage with colour ribbons, distilling lots of energy and joy. Perfect way to finish the concert up top. But this wasn”t the end… With barely any time in between, “Helter Skelter” started to play, while the papier mâché large-headed Arcade Fire doubles took the second stage and danced to give way to the encore.
“Normal Person” started the show’s second part, followed by a very special cover of “London” by The Smiths, Win wearing a mask of Queen Elizabeth II, while the guitarist, Richard Reed Parry, sang. With “Here Comes the Night” they raised everyone in Earl’s Court with the Caribbean rhythm and the confetti transformed the concert into a party.
The finishing clasp couldn”t have been any other than “Wake Up” and those choirs that made the audience part, if they hadn”t been before, of this colossal show. I understand people who are reluctant of the paraphernalia of a shows mise-en-scène beyond the musical purpose, but with no doubt Arcade Fire are way more than a band, they know it, and they want to keep being more.
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You can listen to the concert’s setlist below:
Translation: Eder Fernández Recio