Live review: The Reflektors (Arcade Fire) at Barrowlands, 15/11/13

arcade-fire-2_2712949bThis is first of two sold out nights at the Barrowlands for Arcade Fire touring under alias The Reflektors, playing some more ‘intimate’ sets before surely returning next year to larger venues.

This tour is a celebration though; limousines, mariachi bands, giant heads representing band members (from the Reflektor video) bobbing around the crowd, who mostly have stuck to the formal and fancy dress code set up for the tour to create a carnival atmosphere, it’s a dapper looking crowd for what should be a show stopping occasion.

There’s no support tonight, your hosts are tonight’s only live band but the party atmosphere is evident before they take the stage – you feel this has the potential to be something special.

Their fourth album, the double album Reflektor, is the biggest thing in scope that Arcade Fire have tackled, and even a glance at their back catalogue will tell that is no small matter, it’s an album that took the risk to push the Montreal troop up into the stratosphere and looks to be succeeding.

While it could be argued that it could have been streamlined into a single album, it certainly can’t be argued that it delivers what it promised, Arcade Fire have never been ones to let quality drop and bringing LCD Soundsystem legend James Murphy on board as a producer was a mission statement and a half, but can they translate this live? With Arcade Fire’s typical frenzied live show a fair while off in the Glasgow memory there is still a sense that this can’t really go wrong.

Tonight the set opens with album opener, lead single, title track and tonight’s band namesake, the disco noir ‘Reflektor’ and it sets a tone for the evening, it’s fun and spectacular a breath of fresh air for a band that always delivered live but maybe took themselves too seriously.

An early moment highlighting the fact that Arcade Fire have truly escalated to the masses comes at the end of ‘Reflektor’ as you hear the rather annoying guy, the one you hear at every big show with anthemic tendencies, singing the melodies at full volume while shining a light from his phone in faces of everyone around him.

This isn’t the only sign of this tonight, a glance across the crowd sees numerous topless bams who’ve over indulged doing that wee bam dance, that one where you kind of walk on the spot and point in front of you, and the robust sing-along to closer, Funeral anthem, ‘Wake Up’, which continues out into the street after the show, it’s no surprise that rumours are spreading of a date to be announced at the Hydro in the new year, as of this point it hasn’t been officially announced though.

Still, bitching about the crowd aside, tonight is all about the band and they are sensational, the set as their alias would suggest showcases the new album, nine (and an acapella intro) of the 13 tracks are on show in a 14 track set, the album’s more instantly accessible tracks ‘We Exist’ and ‘Joan of Arc’ coming towards to mid point of the set and keep the audience entranced and energised as Win Butler hits us at full pelt for a good 40-minutes before being allowed a breather as Regine Chassagne, who doesn’t take lead anywhere on Reflektor although does make her presence felt, takes lead on The Suburbs highlight ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’.

Surprisingly, considering James Murphy’s involvement on the new album, this is the most disco moment of the night, possibly due to disco lights that remind of the ‘Common People’ video, something equally fitting and amusing, due to Butler’s earlier mention of a dance instructor, who you now imagine to be showing the crowd how to do Jarvis’ iconic dance from that video, and as the post show entertainment comes in the form of DJ set from Pulp’s Steve Mackey.

Butler returns to the stage for ‘Normal Person’ before sporting his own papier-mâché head with fake glasses, to perform a cover of Devo’s ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, the head remains on eerily mounted on a pole, reminiscent of Sean Bean’s last moment in Game of Throne, through ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ before being removed as the band leave the stage for a well deserved encore.

The encore comes as a double dose of debut album Funeral in ‘Haiti’, a place where the band have drawn a lot of influences for Reflektor, after visiting on The Suburbs tour, and the anthemic ‘Wake Up’, which allows the tensions to be let loose as Butler stands self assured pointing the mic at the crowd who power back the vocal melody with gusto.

Tonight is special, it’s a celebration, and despite Butler’s insistence that The Barrowlands is one the band’s favourite places to play in the world, it’s going to more and more difficult to justify playing here in the future – let’s see how this set translates in the vast reaches of the Hydro next year though.

Words: Iain Dawson


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