Sunday, July 24, 2011
Arcade Fire - Hyde Park 2011
I hardly ever talk about music on this blog, primarily because it's not something I take an active interest in or feel like talking about in any serious way, as I do with films. I know what I like and I know what I don't like, and I guess I could articulate why I do or don't like something. I'd also like to think I know what constitutes crappy music and great music, to some extent, but I certainly lack the knowledge and ability to 'review' music. In short, this isn't a review, but rather a recollection of an experience.
I've been a fan of Arcade Fire since I heard one of their tracks on the trailer for Spike Jonze's 'Where the Wild Things Are' (turns out Jonze is a fan and collaborator as well, having directed some of their recent videos). I've subsequently bought all of their albums and they are among a select few where I actually listen to and like most of the songs as opposed to two or three standouts. This is starting to sound like some kind of promotional post, but fuck it it's my blog and I dig 'em. To my ears they sound distinctive and engaging, with lyrics that are more thoughtful than your average pop/alt-rock band.
I'm not really into going to live musical performances but I was fairly keen on Arcade Fire (and, just FYI I'd also include Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Cranberries, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Pixies on that list; and The Ramones and The White Stripes if they were still around) especially considering they have a reputation for being an exceptional live act. So naturally, when the opportunity arose I snagged a ticket (A brief aside here, apparently it's some kind of social faux pas to attend a live music event on one's own - not only was I repeatedly asked who I was going with, I also noticed very few people who seemed to be there on their own).
In short, it was a blast and I had a great time! Taking place in London's Hyde Park with somewhere around 60,000 in attendance, there was plenty to occupy one's attention before the main event, including a smorgasbord of food and drink stalls, an arcade booth, a mini cinema screening a rather disappointing short film by Arcade Fire and Spike Jonze, and the obligatory merchandising booths. A brief and inoffensive interlude of rain aside it was a bright and sunny day, a relative rarity in the British Isles.
With the exception Beirut the other opening acts who preceded Arcade Fire were ones I was unfamiliar with. Owen Pallett, The Vaccines, and Mumford and Sons (yeah these guys are famous but hey, I don't really keep track of music!) are definitely on my radar now, and discovering new music on the day was a massive plus.
I planted myself relatively close to the stage early on when the crowds were thin and the opening acts were going strong. Mass movements of people between performances caused me to be moved around like a bottle in the ocean and inadvertently got me a bit closer. When Arcade Fire finally showed up the impatient crowd exploded and were extremely vocal throughout. This was actually a bit of a problem at times as the volume levels of the band weren't all that high (due to noise restrictions in the area, apparently!); it wasn't an egregious problem but it was the only noteworthy blemish on the day.
Arcade Fire were great, energetic and enthusiastic throughout and clearly keen on putting on a good show. I had forgotten how many of them there were and the variety of instruments they had at their disposal; they would often swap instruments in between and sometimes during performances with manic intensity. Their setlist covered songs from all three albums and there was one unreleased song that was apparently a live debut. There was some interesting and sometimes surreal imagery on the screens behind them, and an exuberant use of stage lighting that may have caused seizures in any epileptics unfortunate enough to be in the audience!
It was a tiring experience that involved over seven hours of standing beginning to end, but my conclusion several weeks on is the same as it was several minutes after it ended. Totally worth it!