British Summer Time is a hard festival to describe. It sits somewhere between V and Radio 1’s big weekend – well curated, interestingly laid out and independent with a stripped down, no nonsense vibe. Add to this inexpensive ticket prices and a sharp focus on the headline acts and BST draws a strange mix of business people, students and music junkies alike.
All were there for one reason however, to see Arcade Fire’s final date in the UK of 2014. Having wrapped up their European tour, complete with a dynamic set at Glastonbury, this was the last chance to see the Canadian sextet in action, plus support on strings from the fascinating Owen
There could have been no better day for the band to play in London. Hyde Park seared with a clear, dry heat as warm up act Future Islands took to the stage and continued throughout the enigmatic thrall of Wild Beasts. Add to this a secret gig from Public Service Television and an intimate set at the Barclycard Theatre from Pallett himself, the day stood out due to the music, and the music alone – something which many other festivals fail to accomplish in recent years.
As the sun began to set however, a throng began to gather around the main stage, suggesting that this was truly Arcade Fire’s day. The band didn’t disappoint, with a magnanimous set that covered everything from fan favourites The Suburbs to often-forgotten Funeral and the recent, awe-inspiring Reflektor.
But, if the day was to be described in one word it would have to be this: joyful. From the pounding chorus of Rebellion to the near-mystic Joan of Arc and rumbling We Exist, the band was having fun, experimenting with their fans and truly enjoying their last date in the UK. Sending out dummy-headed replicas to start the show, Win Butler’s entrance was a jokey, tongue-in-cheek welcome which riffed through the bands on-stage horseplay and guest appearances from dancers such as Louie Banks.
Highlights of the set included Rococo, Here Comes the Night Time and Wake Up, each adorned with a mirror-dotted stage and neon tasselled instruments. Butler’s rendition of The Suburbs was
beautiful, accompanied by a humming, cooing, singing crowd. Régine Chassagne’s vocals on Joan of Arc and It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus) trickled out in a haunting croon. Throughout the set,
dancers in bright, brilliant costumes wove in and out of the stage – making for an immersive
If the true test of Arcade Fire’s brilliance was the audience however, then they have passed with full marks. The crowd which had gathered in the setting sun never once failed to sing their hearts out or dance the night away. If we’re to see Arcade Fire on British soil again anytime soon – let’s hope they’re in full, enigmatic swing once again.