Arcade Fire at Manchester Arena - 08-04-2018

12 Apr 2018

If you know me, you know I love going to gigs. I have absolutely no problem with dropping a whole load of money on concert tickets, but will I buy that £3 Tesco meal deal? Definitely not. I'll take good memories, dancing and amazing music over a sandwich, crisps and drink deal any day! So when Arcade Fire announced that they were doing a UK tour, I just knew that this was going to be a rare chance to see them again. When AF announce a UK leg of a tour, it's always a minimal amount of dates and this one was no different with only four venues. I got on to Ticketmaster as soon as the tickets were released and managed to grab a couple of standing of tickets for Manchester, and as you can guess, excitement ensued for the rest of the months that I had to wait until the gig date. I've got a few gig-related posts on this blog (take a look here if you want to have a read of them), but this one is probably going to be the most gushy of all.

My earliest memory of Arcade Fire's music is through my mum, which seems to be how I discovered a lot of my musical faves. My mum has one of those old school iPods that has well over 200GB of space inside, so she puts absolutely everything she can on to it, and something that she added to it one day was Arcade Fire's debut album, Funeral. We have "jukebox duty" which is where the person in the front passenger seat of her car plugs the iPod in and selects songs for the journey we're on, and I can guarantee, at least one song from Funeral will feature. I remember very vividly belting out Regine Chassagne's notes at the end and my mum yelling at me to shut up. No one can hit those notes like Regine! So from there, my love for the band just grew and now I listen to them constantly.
In my opinion, Arcade Fire are one of the world's biggest bands that people have never heard of. They sell out arenas and have a back catalogue of songs that you'll most definitely know, but can't quite put a name to. Their third album won a Grammy and Win Butler, the lead singer, was even asked to help score the music for Where The Wild Things Are, yet when I talk about them, people are like, "who?" In a way, it's lovely because they're like a well-kept secret, but at the same time, I just want everyone to know about them. If this is the first time you've heard of them, then stay tuned for my interactive setlist and my recommendations at the end of the post. They're somewhere in the region of indie rock, but according to Wikipedia, they also fall into the art rock and baroque pop genres, so if that sounds like something you'd enjoy, keep reading!

Manchester isn't exactly just down the road for us, so we had a 2 hour drive to get there and that meant that we were slightly late for the doors opening. In fact, we got there about 15 minutes before the support act started. Despite that, we managed to get right to the front of the stage, which is where I really wanted to be. I'm not a standing-at-the-back kinda gal.
About the stage - I'd never seen anything like it. It was set up like a boxing ring, so it was a square in the middle of the arena with screens above it (which played advertisements similar to the promotion campaign for the Everything Now album) and for the first part of the show, there were ropes along each side. When we first walked in, we noticed that there were lines drawn in luminous paint all over the floor and we figured that they meant something, so we opted to go to the side of the stage that featured a huge, pink triangle on the floor, even though it meant we were looking at the back of the support acts heads. Later, we found that this was the perfect place to be. It also meant that we were close enough to get some amazing film footage, so all the gifs in this post were made by me!

Speaking of the support act, I absolutely loved them! It's not often that a support act will stick with me, but there are rare gems that I thoroughly enjoy. The group that played were the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and they're exactly what they say on the tin. They're a jazz band from New Orleans and they were simply fabulous. I've been to New Orleans and the music that they played sounded exactly like what you'd hear whilst walking around the French Quarter. I don't think I've ever heard live jazz played so well and I ended up really wanting to learn to play the trombone.
Then it was time for the main show - Arcade Fire! I had absolutely no idea what was to come with the opening, but considering the stage was set up in the way that it was, the band entered the ring in the way that boxers do. There's probably a name for it, but it was such a massive entrance. They walked in through the crowd to A Fifth Of Beethoven and a big-fight announcer reeled off their achievements while the lights were going crazy and the screens above the stage showed the live footage from a camera that was right up in their faces, exactly like at a sports event. The crowd were going absolutely crazy for it and the energy was already high for what was to come next.

Setlist (click the song to listen)
A Fifth of Beethoven (entrance through the audience)
Everything Now (continued) (instrumental version with boxing intro)
Suburban War (tour debut)
Vampire/Forest Fire (first performance since 2011)
Ready To Start (Damian Taylor remix outro)
Afterlife (with Win Butler walking through audience and a seated row)
Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) (snippet of I Give You Power)

We Don't Deserve Love (with Win Butler beginning in audience)
Everything Now (continued) (with Preservation Jazz Hall Band)
Wake Up (with Preservation Jazz Hall Band, continued through the crowd and slow exit)

As you can see, this was a pretty packed show, but it absolutely flew by. The 2 hours were filled with crowd favourites like Tunnels and No Cars Go, as well as songs from their fifth album sprinkled in between, like the absolute belter that is Everything Now, Creature Comfort, and the more reflective We Don't Deserve Love. The energy that came from the entrance didn't stop throughout the show and even while we were leaving, people will still hollering the hook of Wake Up. That's when you know a band has played a really great show!

Initially, I thought the stage was going to be an issue. As you can probably see from the images and gifs, it was pretty small and there were 9 people on it, so how on earth were they going to move around? Arcade Fire are well known for their multi-instrumental shows and each member can play more than one instrument, so I was like "how on earth will they manage to swap without knocking each other off stage?" It was actually seamless and a lot of the time, I didn't even notice that they were switching. This also meant that each side of the stage got an equal amount of attention, which was lovely. It also left enough room for Will Butler to be his flamboyant self and throw himself around whilst banging on a drum, and Regine's tassel twirling during Sprawl II. Speaking of drums, the centre of the stage was built in such a way that it span around, so whoever was drumming was constantly turning 360. It all looked so much fun up there and I really just wanted to get involved, especially when the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined them at the end for the encore (just imagine how crowded it was then). It looked like a big sparkly, loud party!
I'd forgotten just how amazing Arcade Fire were live. The last time I saw them was in 2011 after I dedicated two days to seeing them at two shows - one at the very same Manchester arena on August 31st and one at Edinburgh castle on September 1st. Needless to say, those were a brilliant couple of days and I wear my hoodie from that tour all the time, but 7 years is a long time and I'm forgetful, so the reminder of how out-of-this-world they are when playing live has just cemented my love for them even more. I can't quite explain what it is that makes them so amazing - it could be that they sound exactly like they do on record, if not better; it could be that they know how to work a crowd; or it could be that they just know how to ramp up the atmosphere tenfold. Either way, all I can tell you is that they are a bunch of extremely talented people and their live shows are phenomenal.

One element that made it incredible for me was the audience interaction. Not only were the band up on stage encouraging sing alongs, dancing and clapping, but Win and Regine both came down into the audience. I can't for the life of me remember which song Regine came into the audience for, but she shook her stuff underneath the disco ball right behind us, and as she came past to get back on the stage, she got a well-deserved pat on the shoulder from me. I almost lost it, I swear. I absolutely love the woman and wish that I was as cool. Again, as Win came past to do his walk up the stairs and through the seated audience for Afterlife, I gave him a shoulder squeeze and had a little squeal in delight. You honestly wouldn't think I was 24, I'm that much of a fangirl. Finally, Win came back into the audience for We Don't Deserve Love. We were literally right beside him whilst he looked up into the beam of light and sang the pensive lyrics - it was so surreal! To have this person I've looked up to and enjoyed listening to for years stood right next to me... I can't even describe!

The pair of us had the best night and can't stop talking about it to this day. J only got into Arcade Fire when they released Everything Now, but he'd heard other songs before, and he said it's one of the best shows he's seen. We got so lucky with the spot that we were stood in, not only because I managed to be within less of a metre of two band members, but also because the people around us were so lovely. It's the first time in a long time that I've felt like I can get my dancing shoes on without being judged by the other people in the crowd (and by golly, did I get my dancing shoes on. I was a sweaty mess by the end of it). In fact, there were lots of people around me that were also going for it with their dance moves, so I felt right at home.

So, if you like what you've read in this post and want to find out a bit more about Arcade Fire and their music, I've got a few suggestions for you. If you want to get right back to the start, listen to Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) or Haiti. The one everyone knows from Funeral is Wake Up, so listen to that too. From the more dark and gloomy album, Neon Bible, listen to my three faves: Black Mirror, Windowsill and My Body Is A Cage (especially this one because those organs at the end are spine-chilling). The Suburbs is an album that's full of brilliant songs, but I think you should listen to We Used To Wait, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) and Ready To Start. From Reflektor, you have to listen to the title track, Reflektor, and Afterlife. And finally, from the new album, you should listen to Everything Now, Chemistry (much to the dismay of 'real' Arcade Fire fans. Buzz off, I bloody love this song) and Put Your Money On Me. All of those songs will give you a good idea of their sound and evolution as a band.

This was one of the best shows that I've seen in a long time and the experience will stick with me for even longer. I know that with Arcade Fire, I probably won't see them live for another 7 years, but this has really satisfied my want to see them. For now.

Whould you like to comment?

  1. I was never a fan of AF when they first came out, but your post has made me want to go have a listen and give them another go. Looks like you had an amazing time!

  2. Aww I loved reading this. I’m an arcade fire uber fan, having discovered them when they first came out when I was in uni in 2004. This was my 5th time seeing them. It should have been my 6th but I couldn’t make one of the gigs I had tickets for when my train was snowed off. They are the world’s greatest live band, there is no other band with that energy or finesse. They are just magical. The last two times I saw them were at secret gigs with under 1000 guests and this was my first time seeing them at an arena so I was worried it wouldn’t be as good but they were still amazing. I’m so jealous of where you were. We were seated at the back unfortunately - despite me going straight on for tickets. Your gifs are fabulous!