ARCADE Fire first toured this “in the round” show to Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange on election night 2017 and, while the production has been up-scaled considerably to fill arena venues, the goal was still the same – to bring the party.
Hydro, Glasgow ****
There was a suitably quirky guestlist – one local legend (more of him later) and the New Orleans institution that is the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who were all looking a lot older the last time I encountered them. But these things evolve down the years and the present line-up of much younger bucks stirred bebop, jazz fusion and Afrobeat flavours into their Dixieland base. The Hydro was entirely the wrong gig environment for them but you don’t survive as a group for 50 years without a talent for adapting.
Then the giant mirrorballs descended from the disco gods and the boxing ring ropes went up for an entertaining bout from these Montreal mummers (collective weight 2,100lbs said the onscreen stats) who entered through the crowd like champs and launched into the euphoric title track of current album Everything Now.
In terms of form, Arcade Fire have heft without bombast and an innate ability to connect with an audience. Their opponent, it transpired, was the muddy sound balance of their many competing instruments which rendered the urgent Rebellion (Lies) a muffled mess.
However, the band powered on undeterred through the Mardi Gras fiesta of Here Comes the Night Time. Régine Chassagne, in her best Sheila B Devotion jumpsuit, pierced the sonic soup with her shrill soprano on disco pop number Electric Blue and descended to party with the crowd in the fabulous mirrorball wonderland of Sprawl II.
Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr was welcomed onstage to front a pretty straight cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me) like the seasoned pro he is, and the sultry ballad My Body is a Cage allowed for some breathing space in the mix, though it would have been more impactful still with a more sharply defined brass fanfare.
However, these gripes seemed to matter less as the set powered towards its climax. The insatiable groove of Creature Comfort dovetailed straight into the clattering Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) and an encore reprise of Everything Now with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band segued into the epic, cathartic Wake Up, a song built for venues such as this, before the band conga’d into the corner of the hall for their usual offstage communal coda.