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).

2010. In hindsight.

Not a bad vintage actually.

Work wise I was run off my feet once again and almost literally in December which proved to be extraordinarily challenging due to the shitness of the weather and the fact that I was researching all over the country.  It was a real struggle, very stressful indeed.

Some great clients which include STV, Ampersand, Corporation Pop, 60 Watt, nmp and LA Media from last year.  But added a few too including Gill’s Cruise Centre, Paligap, and The Usability Lab.

My golf stank pretty much from start to finish and I had a poor Arran and a poor St Andrews.  However one highlight was an Eagle 3 on the par 5 second in the club championships first round.  I won that but went out in round two.  However Forty years of failing to Eagle were finally over. (Tom got about 6 last year alone).

Musically it was a big return to form after very poor shows in both 2008 and 2009.

I’ve already posted my tracks of the year elsewhere which will give you an idea of my top ten albums, but for the record, these are they…

I’m New Here by Gil Scott Heron

Band of Joy by Robert Plant

The Courage of Others by Midlake

Queen of Denmark by John Grant

The Suburbs by The Arcade Fire

Sky at Night by I am Kloot

Elektonische Music Experiment – German Rock and Electronic Music 1972 – 1983

Write About Love by Belle and Sebastian

The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green

Seasons of my Soul by Rumer

My blog had a record year, just, with 340,000 hits, up 45,000 on last year and beating 2008 by only 1,000.  As a result I hit the million mark last week and raised over £1,000 for St Columba’s Hospice in the process.  Thanks to all who contributed.

I did two music quizzes (one in Edinburgh and one in Manchester) for NABS and these raised £3,500

The Hibees were a farce from year start to end and our Scottish cup hopes look less plausible than for a very long time.  Looks like we’ll be going at least 110 years before winning it again.

Theatre again played a big part in my year.

My role as a director of The Lyceum developed and I thought Mark Thomson had a vintage year.  Every show was a hit in some form or other and the highlights for me were The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Price and The Importance of Being Earnest.

FCT had another good year, my first at the helm and I’d like to thank the fab committee for their support.  Two great shows in Just So and Guys and Dolls and another ENDA award.  Annie’s next but no decision yet on the festival.  Our away day in October was deemed a great success.

Amy started at Uni and is working hard as she has done all year at Dakota.  She bought a virtually new car herself ( a Toyota Yaris) and I was really proud of her for being so focussed to be able to do this.  Ria is working hard at school and did really well in her standard grades.  Tom isn’t and didn’t.

Tom’s golf continued to improve and his handicap went from 11 to 7.

Sadly Jeana’s blossoming work at Suntrap came to an end when the funding was pulled.  She was devastated and I suspect still is.

We holidayed in California and it was a tram smash of a holiday from start to finish, summed up by this video…

In books I didn’t read much.  I am enjoying Freedom by Jonathon Franzen but the best of the year was the Red Riding Quadrilogy by David Peace.

fantastic series of horrific police brutality .

And my movie of the year? Well, I saw over 20 movies at the flicks this year and a lot of real quality.  But I plump for The Social Network.  A Prophet was great as was Monsters and The Road, but David Fincher surpassed himself with an amazing script by Aoron Sorkin.

TV show of the year? No Question. Mad Men (we’re playing catch up and only nearing end of season two but it’s fabulous).

In reality TV The Apprentice continues to kick ass.

Digital gizmo of the year?  My iPad… but also my Canon 450 D.  An up and down year on the camera front but happy with my lot and looking for a Canon 5D Mk 1 and a new 28mm prime lens to move on a level in 2011.

Idiot of the Year?  Won hands down by Nick Clegg.  Only cos he sold his soul to the devil.  But he was run close by those fools that lead our government.  You know who they are.  Tony Blair continued to make a right fucking dick of himself and the legacy of Kenny Macaskill is not away yet with Magrahi in the rudest of health.

Sadly I lost a number of friends during the year; Myles, Kathy and Jim, I’ll miss you all.  God bless and love to all of your families.

Wife of the year? Jeana Gorman. 21st year running.  How can she bear it?

Put it this way. I couldn’t live with me. Still.

And so to 2011.

My hopes?

Hibees win the Scottish Cup.  (That’s just stupid.  Ed.)

Tom gets down to a 4 handicap.

I win something, anything, at Golf.

The kids do well at school and uni.

I am healthy throughout. (And lose rather a lot of weight.)

Both Cath and Jean stay healthy too

The credit crunch doesn’t get worse again.

The suburbs by arcade fire

If you,like me, were secretly a bit disappointed by Neon Bible in all it’s shreikiness (barring the excellent No Cars Go) you might be pleased to hear that The Suburbs is more than just a return to form, it might in fact be a career high.

It really is that good.

It’s (whisper again) a concept album (so what, Midlake have pulled it off twice. Ed) about life in the suburbs and hints at Win and Regine planning babies.

Much more textured than either of its much copied predecessors and breaks new, more melodious ground. Some of the highlights actually get the hackles up and others, although more whimsical really engage you. I’m thinking specifically of Rococo here which I know will not stand the test of time but is a real first listen icebreaker.

Truly wonderful. Buy!