Live Review

The Reflektors, Roundhouse, London

The Reflektors’ grand unveiling feels like the cementing of Arcade Fire’s most spectacular chapter yet.

The Reflektors are a ‘fake band’ made by ‘art school people who pretend to do art.’ That’s the motto being fronted by a group of Canadian musicians, papier-mâché heads in tow, arriving for their first London show under this shabby guise. Bags over their heads, discoballs hanging from the Roundhouse ceiling ‘Reflekt’-ing stage lights into gleaming audience eyes, to call The Reflektors’ first UK gig well attended would be an extreme understatement.

Arty, fake, whatever their own faux declarations might claim, Arcade Fire’s new incarnation is not a sham. It’s perfected performance. The fact that these are musicians playing a relative warm-up show, worrying about technical hoohah, is a complete afterthought. There’s a great science behind the surges of guitar, the punk sirens that line the seams of these newly showcased songs. But from a distance it’s like peering into a movie. Nothing feels real, from the crowd’s sequinned costumes to the drama that actualises on stage.

That’s until you look a little closer. There’s an emotional heart to these songs, and indeed the way they’re played. It helps Arcade Fire that they litter a beautiful ‘Crown of Love’ and (a snippet of) ‘My Body is a Cage’ within their new album-centric set. But living within their debut, right up to this theatrical giant that is ‘Reflektor’, is a collective heart that puts itself to the test. It rises out of Haiti and swarms the Roundhouse. The masks and new identities are a sidepiece - it’s still the same group of misfits playing these songs, and it hasn’t been that clear until now.

It’s testament to ‘Reflektor’ that, upon its release, even loyal fans were uneasy about the colossal length of it all. Live, tonight’s show feels like it’s cut short even though it spans an equivalent amount of time. Seconds and minutes fly past, with ‘Joan of Arc’ and ‘Here Comes The Night Time’ reaching a genuine, powerful carnival spirit.

The bill wasn’t fooling anyone. Arcade Fire were always going to appear tonight. But in turn, they expose a fiercer side. The Reflektors is a progression. Everything is snarlier, instruments hit harder, from debut material to the dense wall of noise that defines this extraordinary new record. There’s no doubting a show like this will be amplified in scale and noise tenfold when it hits world tours and festivals, but The Reflektors’ grand unveiling tonight feels like the cementing of Arcade Fire’s most spectacular chapter yet.

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