Sunday, May 08, 2005

Neighbourhood Watch

The Arcade Fire/Final Fantasy, Carling Academy 2, Birmingham, Friday May 6 2005.

It's another true story from Dead Kenny when he advises that during the Telford game yesterday (see previous post) he mentioned to a friend that he'd been to see The Arcade Fire in Brum the previous night, to be met with the straight-faced query, 'Really? Never heard about that on the news'. The good news for the insurance companies is, of course, that your correspondent was not paying witness to capitalism burning before his very eyes, but instead attending a concert by Canada's latest prestigious indie exports, called, yes, you've guessed it, The Arcade Fire.

But Dead Kenny is getting ahead of himself here. First of all, he needs to dispense with the supporting act, which came in the form of Final Fantasy, not as you might have expected, the latest nu-metal atrocity, but seemingly the solo side-project of Owen from the headline act. Owen's primary schtick appears to be playing the violin and screaming a lot (clearly too many additives in the tourbus diet, get Jamie Oliver on the case!). The incredibly hot barmaid with long blonde hair and pierced lip was less than impressed. 'Sounds like he's out of breath all the time,' she groaned playfully. Her colleague resisted the temptation to argue that singing and playing violin simultaneously was a little more exhausting than serving lager while looking pretty, and instead replied sweetly, 'Yes, but the bits between the shouting are rather mellow and lovely'. So there you have it, bar staff who provide balanced gig reviews as well as pouring Carling down Dead Kenny's throat in return for financial recompense - someone give them a raise!

Didn't have any time to stick around to see whether the barman's cheery reasonableness managed to win the barmaid's favours, as The Arcade Fire hit the stage after a commendably brief interval. Now, whether or not you think TAF are over-rated/over-hyped you've got to admit it is a nice change to find a band who don't think that the most memorable moment from the 80s was Duran Duran climbing aboard their speedboats in the promo for 'Rio'. Indeed, it's the collapse of the Berlin Wall that's occupying the band's minds as they look aghast at the space the barriers are creating between them and the audience (who are an average age of mid-twenties, professional looking, polite and almost absurdly respectful).

The band start off with a cover of Dylan's 'Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall' which segues into 'Wake Up' while the rest of the set is made up of several tracks from 'Funeral' plus some older tracks from their demo tape (on sale at the concert) which sounded intriguingly good if a little less intense than the newer stuff. One thing's for sure, they certainly have more songs called 'Neighbourhood' than your favourite band, and, indeed, it's the barnstorming brace of 'Neighbourhood 3 (Power Out)' and 'Rebellion (Lies)' that bring the show to a hectic, dizzying climax, which sees singer Win Butler seize his chance to recreate history on a more intimate scale by launching himself over the barriers into the crowd. All this, and they get to sing 'Happy Birthday' to their long-suffering soundgirl, too.

For the encore, the band play a brand new song followed by the near-operatic denouement of album closer 'In The Backseat' that's given a fresh dusting with an additional coda of hushed harmonies. Final word to The Arcade Fire themselves: Birmingham UK is so much better than Birmingham, Alabama, they claim, before sheepishly admitting, Birmingham Alabama 'is possibly our least favourite place in the world'.


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