Music review: Arcade Fire, Hydro, Glasgow ****
Arcade Fire began the UK leg of their world WE tour to the tune of allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct levelled against frontman Win Butler by four women. These are troubled times for a band whose music could be used to ward off demons.
Down in the arena, though, it was business as semi-normal with the band members making their traditional promenade through the crowd to a small in-the-round stage with a colourful player piano taking up most of the room. Cheek-by-jowl, they made initially hesitant work of Intervention before repairing to the main stage for the indifferent Age of Anxiety 1, from their current underwhelming album, WE.
They would go on to perform most of the album across the set but it was clear where affections lay – with the propulsive likes of Ready to Start, the percussive urgency of Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) and the anthemic Rebellion (Lies).
In the past decade, the Montreal band have loosened off the tightly coiled intensity to emerge as an unlikely party band. Here, they accompanied disco funk rocker Reflektor with some spectacular mirrorball action while giant inflatable stickmen sprang up around the apron of the stage during Unconditional I (Lookout Kid) and the irresistible ABBAesque Everything Now.
Butler’s wife and co-frontperson Regine Chassagne was a one-woman party, bringing sartorial sparkle, snippets of stylised choreography, her helium soprano and Caribbean fiesta spirit to the performance, skipping through the crowd back to the second stage to dance away troubles on top of the piano as she sang Haiti, her bi-lingual paean to her homeland.
Very occasionally, the blazing guns quietened sufficiently to hear the string players properly. Melodramatic rock’n’roll ballad End of the Empire was one such moment before time-honoured cathartic closer Wake Up filled the Hydro with a crowd chant which reverberated into the night.