Arcade Fire at Edinburgh Castle 1 September 2011


OK.  This is going to sound like a moan but the bottom line is that Arcade Fire performed extremely well in Edinburgh last night.  The question is; why was I so unenthused.

They played 18 songs in total.

8 from the suburbs, 3 from Neon Bible including the monumental No Cars Go (which was strangely un-monumental),  6 from their classic debut, Funeral, and a new song; Speaking in Tongues which I really liked.

Thanks to Setlist Wiki for this. What an amazing website by the way.

So, the plus points.  Note perfect.  Great mix of songs spanning their career.  Lovely weather.  Fabulous setting. Excellent acoustics. Very interesting use of video throuhgout.  Like this…

And this…

The downside however was much more intangible.

I was expecting an “experience”.  It wasn’t.

I felt totally detached and that’s because even though we had good seats we seemed miles away from the action.

And there were no big screens picking up action on stage.  OK, the video screen behind the band did, from time to time, blend them into the footage but this was more art than entertainment.

Looked good expansively though.

It all seemed very calculated and clinical almost.  And yet, they played a different set at the MEN on Wednesday night and hadn’t played for a month before that, so it’s not as if they are in a tour rut.

Also, I expected Win Butler to have a winning personality and to engage heavily with the crowd.

Not so.

Sure, he had a few brief “Edinburoe is such a beautiful city” moments but no more than that sort of staple, pretty bland rhetoric.

The rest of them, apart from a bit of streamer work by Regine Chassagne and some climbing up the scaffolding by the percussionist, just got on with the task at hand.  On a take of around half a million quid (calm down. Ed.  Ok £200k) for what is still an indie band (the Suburbs has only sold 400,000 copies) I’d have expected a little more of an effort.

Set highlights were Suburban War, Neighbourhood Number 1, We used to Wait, Wake Up (which had the whole crowd going pretty mad), Keep the Car Running and Rebellion (Lies).

I hated Month of May and Sprawl II (looked as if Win was keeping the Mrs sweet by allowing her to close the show with the worst song of the night).

8 thoughts on “Arcade Fire at Edinburgh Castle 1 September 2011

  1. Ah, that’s a damn shame.

    Saw the Canadian rockers back in Hyde Park in July and they were sizzling.

    This despite all the hassles that go with such a colossal venue, notably reduced sound quality.

    Butler’s personality came through as he made a dig at the affluent W1 residents: “All the rich people who live around this park, every year they try to buy up the rights so you can’t make a little noise.”

    Speaking in Tongues and Wake Up were set highlights.

    Sounds like he lost his tongue last night.

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  2. Sorry, don’t agree with any of this. I saw them at the SECC last December and they were just as good. Absolutely terrific show, one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. The problem I found, wasn’t at all with the band, but rather the crowd. I’m sorry, but they just did not once seem up for this: as soon as Ready to Start kicked in (which is a top class opener) hardly any of them moved: they just stood there, lifeless. Hell, a lot of people around me seemingly refused to take part in the opening lines of Wake Up, which is ridiculous. Oddly, No Cars Go was one of the few times where the most of the crowd genuinely did loosen up a bit and get involved with the music. Butler never has been a patter-merchant, and his interactions with the crowd were more than enough. In fact, they were more or less on the same level as when they did the SECC, and the crowd then went absolutely mental for the likes of (I’d go as far to say that much of the crowd were clearly the kids who are always “standing with their arms folded tight” whom Butler rails against in Month of May, speaking of which, I again thought was marvellous) Ready to Start, Laika, Power Out, Month of May, Intervention, Rococo etc. Ditto for Sprawl II, which is bloody brilliant. A great set all in all, was good to see Speaking in Tongues and Suburban War played, hadn’t seen them live before. And as always, rounded off magnificently with the old favourites of Power Out and Rebellion. Just a a shame they had to deal with an audience who seemed as if they were too aloof from enjoying it. Frankly though, I couldn’t have cared less: my mates and I had an absolutely amazing time, and the exuberant passion, enthusiasm and all round professionalism of our band shone through. Horses for courses, and all that.

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    • Gareth

      Edinburgh has a reputation for being an aloof set of musical cynics (wankers?). I assume from what you say you were in the standing area. I was so dissapointed to be in the stands as that was where the atmosphere dissipated.

      I tried my hardest to get into the groove (and sang Wake up at the top of my voice) but it didn’t really happen (in the stands). I thought No Cars Go was insipid from where I stood. Maybe,again, better in the standing area on the Esplanade.

      I’m glad though that you enjoyed it.

      As for one of the best live bands ever seen. I wouldn’t put this anywhere near my top ten.

      Elbow at Glastonbury this year moved me to tears. Radiohead ditto, BAD too.

      Bill Nelson and Red Noise at The Night Club back in the day. Simple Minds at Tiffany’s, Hold Steady at Liquid Rooms, Melody Gardot at Voodoo Lounge, Frank Sinatra at Ibrox, John Martyn at Stirling’s Albert Hall, The Clash at The Playhouse, The Strangles, same venue, Kraftwerk, same venue, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Same venue, Japan too., The Doves at The Picture House..I could go on…all kicked Arcade Fire’s arse fucking black and blue.

      Again though I think it was the venue and not the band that was the reason.

      Month of May had the highest energy levels but I just think it’s not a great song.

      Like you say though. Each to their own.

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