Most Glastonbury headliners save their triumphant fireworks for the encore, but Arcade Fire make their own rules.
Dressed like a renegade gang of Batman villains in sparkly capes and fluorescent facepaint, the Montreal art-rockers arrive in a blaze of pyrotechnics, the opening flourish in a fairly relentless two-hour marathon of high drama and maximalist showmanship.
The insistent, slippery, whooshing groove of “Reflektor” opens the show, a reminder that these former acoustic warriors are definitely not in Kansas anymore. Songs from every chapter of the band’s shape-shifting career feature here: the urgent folk-rock blast of “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)“, the Glitter Band rumble of Joan of Arc, the Neil Young-ish wistfulness of “The Suburbs”. But many tracks have been remixed or streamlined, with snaking Studio 54 basslines and analogue Moog squelch now fitted as standard. Arcade Fire came to party like it’s 1979.
You have to reach a long way back in pop history to find a major guitar band pulling off such a persuasive conversion to this New Wave glitterball disco aesthetic. U2 in the early 90s, arguably. Before that, maybe Talking Heads or New Order. There is certainly DNA from all three woven into this set, from echoes of “Temptation” in the whooping undulations of “Afterlife” to shimmering downtown loft-party art-funk like “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”.
Peppered with theatrical trimmings including giant puppet heads, mirror-suited spacemen and a sparkly troupe of guest dancers, this show turns the festival into a carnival. But crucially, behind the glam make-up and silver sequins, Win Butler and his cohorts also play with their usual tightly drilled E Street Band gusto, closing with the mighty revivalist fervour of “Wake Up”. A wall-to-wall thrill ride with scarcely a weak moment, Glastonbury’s first headline act of 2014 have thrown down the gauntlet with this dazzling Arcade Fireworks display. Your move, Metallica.