Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, Beirut, The Vaccines & Owen Pallett, Hyde Park, 30 June 2011

There’s a constant sense of magic surrounding Arcade Fire, as if they came from another world. A better one, where each member is capable of playing any possible instrument, where epic and dramatic songs make your blood speed through your veins and pure talent overcomes glossy appearance. A band whose musical quality is beyond comparison, especially on a stage as big as Hyde Park at their biggest London show yet.

Playing before the Canadians must have been quite challenging but happily Owen Pallett, The Vaccines and Beirut lived up to expectations.

Owen Pallett, who contributed string arrangements to Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Neon Bible albums, was unlucky with the weather (his performance was the only wet one) but his gentle melodies and cute falsetto weren’t affected at all. Introduced onstage by [Arcade Fire lead singer] Win Butler himself, Pallett proved he’s not just a classical arranger but a fine multi-instrumentalist, playing keyboards and violin to name but a few.

The Vaccines was predictably the edgy choice of the event performing their infectious What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? album almost in its entirety.

Veterans, Beirut, brought their folk rock to an enthusiastic crowd an hour before the much awaited Mumford & Sons. No one has forgotten Beirut’s influence on groups such as Noah and The Whale and the Mumfords themselves, and that’s why their 45 minute slot was particularly warmly received.

Mumford & Sons could be considered co-headliners of the event, cheered and applauded as heroes by lots of people who bought the ticket just to see them. You can’t help but love the Londoners, four nice and polite guys you can easily spend a night in your local pub with as they are humble, unpretentious and down to earth.

Singer Marcus was sincerely grateful to Arcade Fire for the opportunity to perform on such a big stage and when he confessed Hyde Park was better than Glasto, everyone believed his excitement.

The massive sing-alongs to each track taken from Sigh No More demonstrate how big Mumford & Sons have become in less than two years. The Cave, Thistle & Weeds and White Blank Page were sung by everyone, from the cool indie kid to the guy in the Placebo T-Shirt. Truly the winners of the whole night.

And finally we’ve come to Arcade Fire. Their music is massive and dramatic, their stage presence powerful. You are constantly captured by Regine Chassagne’s dress sense on one side and Richard Parry’s endless energy on the other.

What makes Arcade Fire so captivating is their sense of union. There’s no leader, no defined bassist or percussionist but a team who writes, plays and thinks alike.

Even a b-side track like Speaking in Tongues, timidly introduced as a ‘power ballad’, was a shocking masterpiece and probably the highest point of the show.

Songs such as Intervention, Months of May and Neighbordood 1 (Tunnels) swept away anything we had been heard before, so rich and deep are they compared to anything you can listen on the radio.

The almost two hours of elegance and quality justified Arcade Fire’s position as the most revered rock band in the world right now. If they are not the best live band (as fans of Muse or Foo Fighters might argue), they are definitely the most gifted and consistent.

An enchanting experience and the ‘I was there moment’ of the summer. Arcade Fire are so extraordinary and beyond classification they prove music to be not just about business, but joy and warmth.

By Silvia Rucchin


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