Entertainment Music

Monday 20 January 2020

Arcade Fire played a stomper of a gig at Malahide Castle and then hit Whelans for even more magic

Review and reaction from both gigs...

Arcade Fire playing a secret gig at Whelans. PIC: @NotFancyPants Twitter
Arcade Fire playing a secret gig at Whelans. PIC: @NotFancyPants Twitter

Ed Power

Arcade Fire have had a shiny happy (ish) make-over, with their traditional wardrobe of glum overcoats and serious hats replaced by lurid, eighties-style leisure wear as the band performed at Malahide Castle.

Singer Win Butler – previously the most phlegmatic man in indie pop –  was squeezed into fluorescent orange high-tops; singer Régine Chassagne sporting green neon wrist-bands and matching fishnets. Somewhere out there a Michael Jackson tribute band is wondering who raided their wardrobe.

As well as a warning to the dangers of watching too much Zoolander on the tour-bus, this stylistic reboot was an appetite whetter for the forthcoming Everything Now album (the release of which the group teased by hiding boxes of specially branded cereal around Dublin).

A further glimpse of what awaits was provided as Arcade Fire plunged into the record’s Abba-go-goth title track, their traditional sincerity lit up with an electro-pop flutter.

Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire

Cheesy earnestness is a hard balancing act but the American-Canadian ensemble carried it off, Butler’s grin growing wider as the initially restive audience locked into the track’s groove.

Yet any worries that this would be an evening dominated by the dreaded "new songs" were quickly laid to rest as Arcade Fire resumed their long-running love affair with Ireland. It’s a romance that goes back to their now quasi-legendary 2005 Electric Picnic gig and which would continue later in the evening at Whelan’s, where Butler and chums played a short "after-party" acoustic set.

As the painterly horizon sank into darkness, they clicked smoothly into greatest hits mode. With a mix of rock star swagger and awkward intensity, Butler led the troupe into arguably their most beloved anthem, Rebellion (Lies) early on and from there treated the crowd of ageing millennials on a breathless tour of their catalogue.

This overcast corner of north Dublin proved a surprisingly evocative backdrop for Haiti, Chassagne’s valentine to the homeland of her birth while fountains of dry ice backlit Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) an electro-noir fever dream inspired by David Lynch suburban surrealism.

Arcade Fire at Whelans in Dublin. PIC: Grainne Biddle Twitter
Arcade Fire at Whelans in Dublin. PIC: Grainne Biddle Twitter

"You give us so much every time," said Butler at the end. The cheers ringing out confirmed the feeling was entirely mutual.

For those who missed Malahide Castle and Whelans, here's a little taster of what went down:

Not everyone knew about the surprise gig (surprise, surprise) and some were a bit miffed they missed it..

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