Arcade Fire at Glastonbury Festival 2014 review

'A band determined to do it their own way'

Photographer: Shirlaine ForrestChris Eustace on 28 June 2020

Arcade Fire might be used to topping the bill at the big events by now, but Glastonbury is an altogether different challenge, as the likes of U2 and Oasis will attest. What the Pyramid Stage got tonight was a band determined to do it their own way.

The emergence of a mysterious figure in an all-over shiny suit and a stuttering intro track gave way first to a massive fireworks display from the top of the stage, and then tonight’s headliners. Starting up with the disco fuzz of current album title track ‘Reflektor’, singer Win Butler was resplendent in the black and white eye mask that’s become his trademark.

A richly percussive ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ segued into a cutting ‘Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)’, enhanced by a horn section, as they made a strong start, seeking to keep the crowd’s attention with ‘Rebellion (Lies)’, its’ distinctive “ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh” hookline continuing acapella after the song had finished.

Régine Chassagne then donned a glittery facemask of her own for the glam stomp of ‘Joan Of Arc’, and a trio of singles followed: ‘The Suburbs’ asserted itself as a broken, wistful singalong, while a huge sounding ‘Ready To Start’ and a venomous ‘Ready To Start’ put anyone who doubted they had the tunes to headline to rights.

Overwhelmed by the response, Win Butler told the crowd: “you look beautiful tonight”, asking for the lights to be turned up so he could see to the back, where the tail-end of an impressively large audience hailed him as ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’ began in earnest.

Introducing ‘We Exist’, the frontman told the crowd: “Each one of us is unique…someone tries to make us all the same. You were born perfect, alright?”, slipping in a snippet of ‘My Body Is A Cage’ before a rousing ‘Keep The Car Running’, which encouraged an audience member to try his own hand at pyrotechnics, letting off a red flare at the end of the song, which Win acknowledged, deadpanning: “hope you didn’t get arrested.”

An anthemic ‘No Cars Go’ made the Pyramid Stage seem ripe for take-off, and it appeared to have the same effect on the band, who seemed invincible afterwards, with Regine taking centre-stage for ‘Haiti’ and ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’, while the disco returned for a run through ‘Afterlife’.

There was time for a bizarre appearance from Arcade Fire’s papier mache-headed “fake band” The Reflektors, who pom-pom danced their way through an airhorn-assisted DJ medley of past Glastonbury headliners, including Oasis, Pulp, Jay Z, Beyonce and The Chemical Brothers, before the band returned, briefly joining in with some moves of their own before the fakes were ushered off and the encore began with ‘Normal Person’ and ‘Here Comes The Night Time’ after which smoke and ticker-tape engulfed both the fans at the front of the stage and those in the middle, via the sound tower.

“In a lifetime of near-impossible things that have happened to our band, this is the highlight” said Win Butler as the smoke cleared, “We hope you have the time of your life [at this year’s festival], let’s sing this one together.” The crowd obliged for a titanic version of ‘Wake Up’, it’s refrain still ringing out as the crowd went their separate ways. As an anthem for this year’s festival, it’s going to take some beating, and as a headline performance for this year’s festival, it’s going to take some beating. That’s the level Arcade Fire are at these days, on their own terms, papier mache heads and all.


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