Arcade Fire - The Castle, Edinburgh, Thu 1 Sep 2011 (4 stars)

Band's enthusiasm helps suck in swirls of Edinburgh spookiness

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Arcade Fire - The Castle, Edinburgh, Thu 1 Sep 2011

Any band gigging at Edinburgh Castle is going to feel a sense of occasion. Arcade Fire more so than most. Frontman Win Butler, his wife Régine Chassagne and the rest of the Montreal outfit are obsessed with the fragility of the modern world. Playing in front of its burning braziers they make the Castle seem a symbol of permanence and highly valued history in amongst so many fleeting and over-saturated experiences.

In short, the venue is very much Arcade Fire’s cup of mead. Or shorter still, as Butler says on stage, ‘Fuck, we’re playing the Castle!’ The enthusiasm helps suck in swirls of Edinburgh spookiness, captivatingly so on ‘Haiti’, Chassange’s eulogy to the ghosts of centuries of brutally mistreated Haitians.

There are also several stabs at primal ferocity. Set opener ‘Ready to Start’ is fiery as hell. So too ‘Month of May’, from new album The Suburbs, which turns into an angry wig-out. ‘The kids are all standing with their arms folded tight’, Butler sings at the song’s peak, as some of the crowd self-consciously uncross their tightly-folded arms, trying not to look like one of the desensitised, grey-faced masses that The Suburbs attacks.

Through the thoughtful mid-point of the set the energy starts to drop. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just a balmy evening at the end of the Festival, and the Castle has been made comfortable enough to accommodate fans of Bryan Ferry a few days later. Within its walls, the venue feels (appropriately enough) very safe. People sway, they don’t hoot – though this does nothing to dilute the power of ‘The Suburbs I’, the title track to the new album, sung movingly by Butler in front of a slow-motion edit of Spike Jonze’s music video. He might be singing about crumbling concrete, but there’s a power to the music that will last like Scottish stone.

Arcade Fire, Wake Up - Edinburgh Castle, 1st September 2011

Arcade Fire

Following the release of their new album Reflektor, the headily-acclaimed Canadian ensemble embark on a worldwide tour.

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