During this album/tour cycle, Win Butler has gone on record stating he wants Arcade Fire to be the biggest band in the world. In a critical sense, Arcade Fire are already there with plaudits rained upon them album after album, single after single, but as others will probably quite happily tell him and the band, the live arena is the make-or-break place. Muse likely won't match the critical acclaim they garnered around Absolution, nevertheless they're likely to continue to have a stadium tour every album cycle because of their live show. U2 won't be playing arenas anytime soon, yet their albums won't be viewed positively by the majority. Based on their show at Earl's Court, coupled with that uncompromising ambition, Arcade Fire are perfectly placed to keep moving on up.

There's a maturity and self-assuredness to Arcade Fire's live show now, I've not seen them since the Neon Bible tour and the difference is fairly remarkable. The awkward energy that characterised earlier tours and propelled the band to newer heights during those tours has been replaced with confidence. Arcade Fire don't need that awkwardness to keep them on edge and help them pull out a killer show anymore, they know they can knock a show for six anytime they want. That isn't to say there isn't a frantic nature to their performance anymore, William Butler will always be William Butler, attempting to make a percussion instrument out of anything and everything he passes on his dashes around the Earl's Court stage (although, where's the crash helmet gone?!), or dropping to his knees whenever possible with a bass or guitar slung over his shoulder. One of the major differences between the pre-Reflektor and post-Reflektor Arcade Fire is just how much of a commanding presence Win Butler is. No longer just the main singer of the group but the main focal point of the show apart from the lights and props, the most captivating, powerful and confident presence on the stage, with constant trips to front barrier to engage with the people. He was filling the role of archetypal frontman to absolute perfection, and that'll be an important dynamic to Arcade Fire's live show going forward.

Also, perhaps this confidence is down the Reflektor songs in the set. These songs aren't frantic, awkward, twee or naïve songs full of insecurities, or songs of a band dreaming of something bigger, these songs are far more measured in their rhythms and arrangements with those pulsating rhythms giving off an incredibly 'cool' impression, let's call it the LCD Soundsystem effect, as if the songs were strutting, while at times they're incredibly powerful songs; again, the rhythms, but also the aggressive stabs of guitar and the new found focus on a big bass sound. It was pretty clear to see on stage just how much these songs were energising the band, and dare I say it, reinvigorating them as if they were becoming a completely new band, the likes of 'We Exist', 'Here Comes The Night Time', 'Flashbulb Eyes' and 'Reflektor' allowing the band to completely get loose and get their groove on. With all those big rhythms and big beats there was also a carnival atmosphere around the hall which worked in two distinct ways. The band were relaxed and enjoying themselves while playing and the audience were having a ball, and that can be pretty helpful for the band too.

It's interesting to see just how much that reinvigoration from the Reflektor songs translated to the older material. The staples from Funeral appeared to take on a completely new dimension, the chorus' sounded even more anthemic than usual while the band never seemed to fall back onto old emotions and old behaviours while playing them; they may have been conceived by a fresh-faced, naïve band but now they're being played by world-beaters and they sounded world-beating. Take 'Power Out' as an example, it sounded powerful and even a little majestic, as if it could set a stadium alight, or maybe even a field somewhere in Somerset. The great thing about the older songs was that they never seemed to be just being played, they were being celebrated. The only minor gripe with the setlist was the lack of Neon Bible material, with only 'No Cars Go' being played. Some songs were begging to be played with this new approach and a bigger, more confident sound (although, fortunately they rectified that the following night with 'Intervention').

Fortunately, the show proved that no matter how big Arcade Fire keep getting, the connection between band and audience is as strong as ever, with the band feeding off the audience continuously, and the Earl's Court audience willing to give their all knowing how much the band appreciated it. Maybe this is why they're happy to give the audience a treat and share the stage with Ian McCulloch? The sing-alongs, and boy do Arcade Fire provide plenty of them, were never instigated by the band and some continued long after the respective song had finished without prompting, and that's a special sign considering how big Arcade Fire are getting. Some big shows by fairly big bands can seem a little soulless as if they're pandering to the radio crowd, but there was no danger of that. If they can continue to grow while keeping a large and loyal core audience, and continue to make every show feel as intimate and intense as they did at Earl's Court, their stature as a live band will only get bigger. The Earl's Court show was a spectacle and with other monstrously big gigs on the horizon it's going to be a big summer for Arcade Fire. If this performance is anything to go by, the big leagues are waiting.

  • Setlist:
  • Reflektor
  • Flashbulb Eyes
  • Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
  • Rebellion (Lies)
  • Joan of Arc
  • Rococo
  • The Suburbs
  • The Suburbs (Continued)
  • Ready To Start
  • Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
  • The Cutter (with Ian McCulloch)
  • Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
  • No Cars Go
  • Haiti
  • We Exist
  • Afterlife
  • It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
  • Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
  • Normal Person
  • Here Comes The Night Time
  • Wake Up