City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Arcade Fire at Edinburgh Castle, Review

By Euan Andrews - Posted on 03 September 2011

Arcade Fire
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Edinburgh Castle

It’s the first day of September and summer is pretty much semi-officially over. Not an auspicious date for the first of this year’s annual Castle Concerts, particularly given the torrential wash-out which was substituted for much of Edinburgh’s “summer”.

But, despite a slight autumnal chill, the clouds have cleared by showtime this evening. The choice of moving the Castle Concerts from July to September was a wise plan also for the fact that they now conveniently fill the void between the end of the Fringe/Tattoo season and the fireworks finale of the Edinburgh International Festival.

My first thought on entering the mini stadium erected around Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade is “At what point did Arcade Fire suddenly get so big?” To my mind, they should surely still be struggling to sell out Glasgow Barrowlands, yet here they are midway through a sold-out UK arena jaunt. They seem fairly surprised at where they’ve ended up themselves.

“When we saw this on the tour schedule”, remarks frontman Win Butler, “we though, oh, the Edinburgh Castle, that’ll be, like, in the suburbs in some mall. And then we got here and we’re, like, Oh, right, it’s THE fucking castle”.

Arcade Fire are very into suburbs. And childhood and growing up and relationships with parents and the neighbourhood and generally transcribing the everyday events which mould and shape everyone, but somehow still managing to turn every song into a clarion call, rousing march or anthemic sing-a-long.

They also have a slightly forbidding aspect to them, immediately surrendered when they take to the stage and get everyone to clap along while exhorting us to “dance our asses off”. This, I did not expect. Perhaps this is why they’ve become such a big live draw. Despite the sometimes mundane or sombre circumstances they sing about (I mean, their first album was called “Funeral”, for heaven’s sake), their concert is a grand, communal and all-inclusive event. You get the impression of their fully reaching out to the capacity audience.

But somehow, all the bluster and emotion fail to move me. While surrounded by people singing and clapping along, I feel I’m at a big party to which I wasn’t really invited. But I can’t fault Arcade Fire or their devoted audience. The band is beaming cheek to cheek by the concert’s end. “Thanks for the energy, Edinburgh”, shouts Win, and Edinburgh responds in kind.