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Arcade Fire – British Summertime Festival – Hyde Park, London – 03/07/14 | Live Review

We headed down to British Summertime Festival in London’s Hyde Park to check our Arcade Fire and more! Read our review here.

Source: HTF

Well the hottest day of the year isn’t a bad day to go and check out the British Summertime Festival at London’s Hyde Park.  Not really a festival, more of a collection of massive gigs spread over a week including the likes of McBusted, The Libertines and today’s headliner Arcade Fire.

The blue skies welcomed the thousands of park visitors, some lucky blighters  who may have only paid £2,50 a ticket due to staff website ‘leak’ last week.  The park dazzled with colour and greenery with the usual arrange of over priced food and drink outlets and the token fair ground rides. But the sponsors certainly enjoyed splashing out for very well turned-out ushers and top VIP toilets, where I enjoyed washing hands with a certain bass player from The Vaccines.

The first band up and introduced by Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler were Future Islands.  They casually walked out into the roasting stage, dressed as if they had just come from a marketing firm meeting. The few thousand people politely clapped their entrance. But it didn’t take long for the Baltimore synth poppers to turn the audience around – though  they did have to wait for the audience to chant “turn down the bass” before any of us could actually hear them. Lead singer Samuel Herring danced like a neanderthal at a strip joint (and that’s a compliment) .Those who saw their breakthrough appearance on the David Letterman Show earlier this year will have seen a glimpse into the intensity of this man’s performance. He is a legend, moving around the stage on all fours, before shaking his hips better than most of the girls on MTV Base.  The Future Islands set may have needed a few more crowd- pleasers, but ‘Seasons ( Waiting On You) ‘ definitely  was the track that everyone was waiting for  and many a shape was being thrown. Sadly no one could manage to out-shine Herring, whose shirt had now changed from blue to black like a hyper-global t-shirt from the 90’s.

The Cuban Brothers are always a great booking for any festival and I was very happy to spot the boys bantering with an audience over in their own calypso stage area. They introduced their new member Juan Erection and performed their legendary mix of sexy- funk, slick dance moves and bumming gags. Not one for the kids. Sadly the brothers had to cut short their set for the next Wild Beasts on the main stage.  Even sadder after watching them for two songs and then remembering why I usually avoid them at every festival. The moaning vocals and the plodding songs just drag on and on. Band Of Skulls were due to play the other stage so I trotted over, grabbed a Mr Whippy cone and then saw that the stage times had changed and the Southampton blues trio had been moved to an hour later and will clash with Jake Bugg.

As Wild Beasts were still whaling on the main stage, it was time for a lie down with a drink and take in the environment whilst deciding on who to see, Bugg or Band Of Skulls.

A few more ice cream headaches later, Jake Bugg walked casually onto the main stage dressed head to toe in black with matching sunglasses, the solo-star wasn’t exactly full of beans. Maybe too many festival appearances in such a short amount of time had gotten to the 20 year old, he certainly lacked charisma as he plodded his way through his back catalogue of songs, with little or no in-between song chat. For someone who has been playing so many big festivals, it’s strange to see how little he has learned in the way of engaging with a field of people who haven’t necessarily paid to see him. The security guard’s belly looking a little bit like a frog became more interesting than Bugg’s show. After three or four songs, Band Of Skulls seemed a more viable option and off I went to the Barclaycard Theatre to come face to face with a anaconda-sized line of people waiting to get inside the indoor venue. After finding out that the security were operating a one-in-one-out system, a gambling man would quickly work out that there was no way of seeing the band, so off I went back to the main stage to hear the rest of Jake Bugg’s set still confused as to why Band Of Skulls had been given such a small venue to play.

Back on the main stage Bugg was bringing out the hits and ‘Song About Love’  , ‘Whats Doesn’t Kill You‘ and ‘Lightning Bolt‘ certainly show off his fine songwriting ability and the reason why critics have such high hopes for his career. But as a live event, there is still sadly something lacking and maybe he wasn’t the best booking for an Arcade Fire crowd who may not be exactly his usual audience.

Source: HTF

By the time the stage had been flooded with the enormous array of instruments for the headline act, the Hyde Park attention had seemingly doubled in size and thousands of fans were staring at the screens for a sign of their favourite Canadian act.

It’s amazing how a band without a hit single can headline two UK festivals in the space of a week. They could be the world’s biggest cult band and after tonight anyone watching them on the Great Oak main stage would have seen why. The performance from start to finish was nearly flawless. From the moment Win Butler announces the band onto the stage saying that this  “is perhaps our last ever show”  to the front man throwing all of his microphones into the audience whilst milking the applause, Arcade Fire were (as the kid next to me said) “on it!”. There was the U2 style giant heads. There was the chaotic one man show from (keyboardist/anything he can get his hands on to play-ist)  Will Butler .There were dancing skeletons, transvestites and the Pope. And of course a 20 song set list full of their best tracks from the past ten years.

Kicking off with their current album Reflektor’s ‘Normal People‘,  this was a different set list to what they had previously played at Glastonbury Festival and London’s Earls Court recently. With ‘Flashbulb Eyes‘ and ‘Haiti‘ being replaced with ‘Rocco‘ and ‘Crown Of Love‘ for a more crowd-friendly structure. ‘Rebellion ( Lies) ‘ sounded spectacular and Will Butler was so excitable he ended the song with a bloody knee so bad he had to change his trousers. Win seemed very buoyant throughout and said ” it was easy to fall in love with London, on a day like this” before performing the Suburbs title track. The band backed by six other touring musicans of percussionists, strings and brass, gleamed in their white suits and it’s exhausting watching them swap instruments constantly in between tracks. Even drummer Jeremy Gara was allowed to strap on his guitar for a fine performance of old crowd favourite ‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’, whilst Régine Chassagne (Win’s wife) took over the skins. There was time for a few surprises, yes, Beth ( Natalie Imbruglia)  from TVs Neighbours was in the crowd and  so much more. The band had set up a second stage halfway into the crowd where during tracks like ‘We Exist’, three dancers could appear and split the attention between the band and themselves almost doing a similar dance to the one of  Samuel from Future Islands had done only hours before. Later on Régine would use the same stage to perform ‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’ singing over the crowd to her husband whilst being shadowed by a dancing skeleton and wearing a fancy cape and matching headphones. A majestic ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)‘completed the first part of the show, with the stage flickering in lights. And this is the most visual the band have ever been. With a massive backdrop of video screens and hanging mirrors from the ceiling the band have certainly spent time on their show. Jake Bugg take note. This is how to entertain a field of Londoners.

Source: HTF

The encore began by the odd sight of Pope Francis’ giant papermache head appearing on stage followed by the rest of the giant headed Arcade Fire to mime along to The Rolling Stone’s ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. There is never an explanation of why they wanted the Pope on stage but they certainly seem like they are enjoying him being there. Win asks us to “keep it down as the rich people near by are trying to sleep” before they play ‘Here Comes the Night Time‘ and a parade of dancers dressed as animals and of course her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II make their way through the audience and onto the stage. A double whammy of their most well known ‘hit’ ‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’ and ‘Wake Up’ spoil the Hyde Park crowd and the field becomes a frenzy of limbs fanning the skies and strangers chanting the chorus to ‘Wake Up’ arm in arm. Ticker-tape is fired from cannons and the band just watch on in disbelief at how much they are adored. Butler and the percussionists keep on returning for more and Butler is so taken aback he had to throw objects from the stage as some sort of reward for what had been a wonderful summer occasion.

If this really is their last ever show, they literally went out on a bang!

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