Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Arcade Fire & Pixies at Marlay Park (29/6/14) - A Review

Marlay Park has been host to a series of excellent summer line ups in the past but this year has surpassed all before with the likes of Kanye West, Arctic Monkeys, Macklemore and Kings Of Leon all paying a visit before Longitude kicks off at the end of July bringing us Massive Attack, Disclosure, Chvrches, Haim and many more. But as if that wasn't enough, there surely is no better way to kick off a summer full of live music than with kings of the genre both past and present. Pixies spent the late 80's and early 90's defining alternative rock and laying the groundwork for bands like Nirvana and Radiohead before Arcade Fire took over the alternative music scene in 2004 and began their path to world domination, one which has culminated in the glorious Reflektor tour in 2014.

The stage was beautifully set for music lovers as the sun beat down on the 32,000 capacity venue in Rathfarnham , Co. Dublin and the atmosphere among concert goers was electric, the kind of unique togetherness which seems to follow The Arcade Fire every time they land in Ireland, perhaps due to their self professed warm relationship with the country. Before the Canadian ensemble took to the stage however, we were treated to an exceptional set from one of rock's greatest ever four pieces.

Those who may have been wary of a setlist promoting the Pixies most recent and most uninspired release Indie Cindy should have had no fear as the band thrashed out a series of their finest tunes, the majority of them taken from defining releases Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. After kicking off early with classics such as ''Crackity Jones'', ''Mr. Grieves'', ''Hey'' and ''Gouge Away'', it was clear that Frank Black and co. had lost nothing of their live expertise as they flawlessly executed a near perfect set with pitch perfect vocals and immaculate timing from the entire band. Even the absence of Kim Deal was barely noted as replacement bassist Paz Lenchantin replicated her trademark falsetto backup on tracks like ''Wave Of Mutilation'', ''Caribou'' and ''Where Is My Mind?'', with the latter receiving pop of the night for obvious reasons.

Even tracks taken from Cindy seemed to take on a new life when performed, with ''Greens And Blues'' offering the most convincing example of a dull album track being transformed through the band's live energy, but the highlights were always obvious with ''Here Comes Your Man'' and ''Vamos'' among them, but it would be impossible not to mention Dave Lovering's charming performance on ''La La Love You'' as moment of the night, with the drummer executing his sole vocal feature in the band's catalogue with the kind of wit and personality that Frank Black failed to show throughout the evening.

It was Black's notoriously difficult personality that brought the set to an unceremonious end as the band struck up ''Debaser'' only for the frontman to cut it off, claiming his guitar had died and he was ''taking it as a sign''. It was about the most that Black had spoken all night, and his manner on stage in between songs seemed to suggest he was perhaps unimpressed by the Irish crowd, many of whom admittedly didn't seem to realize the quality of what they were witnessing. It seems strangely ironic to think that those who showed up only for Arcade Fire are unaware of the fact that their favourite band wouldn't exist if it weren't for the Pixies in the first place, but Black's sudden departure remains an unprofessional move, and seems pretty ungrateful to the Irish fans who actually showed up to see the band.

All in all though, this was a wonderful return for a band who are still better than most at rocking out on a live stage 23 years after they originally called it quits, it's just a shame it had to end in such a strange manner.


Right on time at half past eight, Win, Regine and the rest of The Arcade Fire took to stage with their now customary bobblehead costumes in the image of U2 as ''Streets Have No Name'' played through the speakers. It was a sweet way to start as the band warmed themselves to the Irish crowd before getting down to business with ''Normal Person'' and ''Joan Of Arc'' taken from Reflektor being mixed with vintage tunes by the band such as ''Rebellion (Lies)'', ''The Suburbs'' and ''Tunnels'', the latter of which even came with a ''Where Is My Mind?'' outro that pleased the crowd, and Win was quick to pay tribute to his heroes, stating: ''Everything that is odd has happened to you when you're playing after the Pixies''.

The band's figurehead has transformed from the reserved figure that slouched around stage during early tours into an assured rock frontman over the past decade and it shows like never before tonight as he professes his love to the Dublin crowd with genuine emotion, a gesture that's highly appreciated by the tens of thousand in attendance, who make their voices heard when the talking stops and the music continues with the likes of ''No Cars Go'', ''Intervention'' (accompanied by an ''Antichrist Television Blues'' snippet) and ''Reflektor'' getting the loudest reception before the gorgeous synth pop of ''Sprawl II'' brings the set to a temporary close.

Chants for more are answered swiftly as Butler emerges from backstage in the form of Pope Francis to the soundtrack of Sinead O Connors ''Nothing Compares 2 U'' in a hilarious segment that sees a picture of Miley Cyrus being ripped on screen to the delight of the crowd. It's yet another moment of synchronicity between the band and their Irish fan base, a relationship which truly does seem engaging and special on several occasions throughout the night.

The band rip through set favourite ''Power Out'' and a couple more Reflektor standouts (''Afterlife'' and ''Here Comes The Nighttime'') before the evening is brought to an epic close with ''Wake Up'' as everyone in Marlay Park echoes the band's glorious chant back to them while confetti rains down on the deafening crowd in a scene of epic proportions and stunning beauty, bringing a perfect evening to a worthy end.

As the band take their bows and exit stage, Win has to tell the crowd one more time: ''We fucking love you!'', and I'll be damned if every single person in Marlay Park wasn't thinking the same thing.


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