Sam Wetherell 06/05/2005
Win Butler, the suit-jacket wearing lead singer of the Arcade Fire looks like he's just graduated from a French Canadian Lumberjack school. Combing the straggly blonde hair away from his eyes he takes one last look at the rest of his band, an awkward looking ginger man holding a violin in the shadows, a pack of deranged percussionists beating out a rhythm with their sticks on the lead piping that hung down from the stage, and Regine Chassangne executing the last moves an eccentric robotic dance manoeuvre. He plays the final chord of “The Power is Out”, and holds before falling into the waiting arms crowd who pass him around the venue in a wide arc, guitar and all, with the chord still ricocheting around the room, while the man in the shadows shreds his violin to pieces, his arms moving so quickly you can hardly see them. It's the sound of When You Sleep by My Bloody Valentine played by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Superlatives fail me. I knew they would, otherwise I wouldn't have travelled over an hour on the train to be here. The Arcade Fire breed them like little Canadian rabbits. So, perhaps disappointingly, it was no surprise that this gig was amazing. Perhaps I'm giving this gig four stars because its quality was something I was expecting. In the dark and empty passages of the Acadamy beforehand, the cultish few who had turned up to witness these word-of-mouth of legends seemed to be waiting around patiently for their lives to be affirmed. I don't know whether it's the venue, a tiny intimate little bar stage overlooking the cavernous and eerily empty main stage of the Birmingham Academy, or whether it was the manic sleep deprivation from spending the previous night watching Tony Blair reduce his majority, or perhaps it was the twisted support artist, who played thrash violin folk mixed with the odd heart wrenching scream for good measure, but there was a certain other-worldliness to this place.
“This is our last song, its called In The Backseat”, these words sent a ripple of excitement through the small crowd, it was what they were waiting for. The guy in front of me turned around with wild eyes and said to me “this is the best fucking one!” as if for some reason I didn't already know. It was a luke-warm honey tinted battering ram of soaring violins, cracked-voice emotion and insane percussion. Half of the band belted out the haunting vocal refrain for the last three minutes “oooo ooo ooo oooo ooo ooooo ooooohhh”, while the violinist moved onto a stringed instrument the size of Nissan Micra that barely fitted into the stage. The final instrumental kept coming and going, louder and quieter, leaving us constantly wondering if they would go back in, back to that chorus that on the album is so fleeting, one last time. They don't of course, its all a tease. They stepped off the stage and made their through the crowd, the vocalists stopping halfway to give us a few more “oooo ooo ooo”s for good measure.
Ten minutes later, in the driving rain and with the sound of thunder in the distance I bartered with a tout for a tee-shirt, just so I could have something tangible to remember the show with.