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Blaze of heaven
They love Ireland and Ireland loves them. As the Arcade Fire ramp up for world domination, the band talk about love, death, war and making music in churches.
Peter Murphy, 13 Apr 2007
It’s not overstating the case to suggest that this might be the most fervently anticipated record of the decade, not just for the band’s rapidly expanding following, whose devotion increasingly bears comparison with that of a religious cult, but a wider pool of peers, musicians, writers and just about anyone with a shred of faith left in the revivalist power of rock ‘n’ roll.
There will, no doubt, be bigger selling albums this year, but few will inspire the same kind of sheer evangelical belief in the notion of music as an elemental unifying force that transcends demographics, focus groups, airplay and sales figures, and translates into the realm of the social and communal.
Within a week of our meeting, Neon Bible will debut at No 2 in both the UK and Billboard charts; echoes abound of another second album released some 15 odd years ago. In her book Route 666 – On The Road To Nirvana, Gina Arnold stated that when Nevermind topped the charts in the second week of January 1992, it was as sure a portent of an incoming Democrat in the White House as any political analyst might conjure.
Certainly, the feeling in the air prior to Neon Bible’s release bore comparison with Radiohead prior to OK Computer, REM and U2 in the mid 80s, Springsteen circa Born To Run.
Never underestimate the power of a whistle-stop campaign in which the electoral candidates press the flesh with their constituents. Like the aforementioned acts, the Arcadians are a playing band, a sort of post-rock alternative Rolling Thunder Revue whose shows go far beyond the strictures of promotional strategy and into the realm of sacramental rite, a regard for performance as its own reward that qualifies them as arguably the first act since U2 and Bruce who might take on the stadia on their own terms and win.
The band’s first appearance on these shores, at the Electric Picnic in 2005, was closer to a deep south tent-show testimonial than a one-nighter by a visiting band. They struck a resonant chord with Irish audiences from the off, a mutual love-in significant enough to merit mention on the band’s Wikipedia entry. But then, race memories are long, and the Canadians seem to fit all the requirements that guarantee a faithful Hibernian following: stagecraft, stamina, a certain contrary streak, and an affinity with roots forms, all attributes shared by bands who traditionally regarded Ireland as much more than an easy opening date on a European tour: Bruce, REM, The Waterboys, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.