It certainly wasn’t an oceanic crowd, the one that was waiting for Arcade Fireto arrive. At first glance indeed, just scrutinising the lines that moved in diagonals from the stage to the ticket touts, the public barely seemed to fill half of the festival space. The impression that hit me was it was like arriving at theMilan Horse-Racing course, excitedly waiting for the arrival of one of the most spectacular bands to have been created over last few years. With a colourful expression, my friend shouted that the atmosphere reminded him somewhat of the Coachella Festival; yes, but for poor people! An amused expression that betrayed certain nervousness, an unbuttoning of the shirt that could readily be explained: the European tour of the band will only touch two Italian cities, Milan and Florence, the adrenalin rush is massive, the desire to hear the grandchildren of David Bowie is galactic, and none of the things that came afterwards could have surpassed it. They opened with a few colourful tunes: Hercules and Love Affair, a sweet yarn created by sampling and distortions springing from the genius ofAndy Butler. Some of the hits allowed him to keep the good name he earned after exploding onto the scene with “Blind“. The audience was chanting, the timing was perfect for a beer and warming up the vocals.
The audience was young, the average was around twenty-five at most, the first rows were packed so tightly they couldn’t even throw a dance move, even when Bob Marley was being used as an alternating mix in the ultimate dance anthem. There was a euphoria in the air that shook with optimism and hope. An expectation that faded when the slow motion version of “Everything Now “ (which will apparently be included on the new album of the same name, due for release on July 28th) sailed the magnificent nine onto the stage. “Over the edge of a precipice, I am invited to play” Battiato sang in “Bist du bi Mir“, and the line fitted perfectly into the scene. At the break of the band’s first single bass ride, the crowd became united and started to jump
The musicians were off the lead, and alternated between their onstage exuberance and constantly stirred up the audience they could see. Arcade Fire were, as usual, geniuses in connecting all their songs together like sorcerers, without ever missing a beat, and certainly never yielding to predictability. There was the triplet “Rebellion (Lies)“(holy monster),”Here comes the Night time” and “Chemistry“(its live debut) that was successfully thrown into the clutches of an audience who breathed life into it with synchronized lips that with every movement fell into complete devotion to the band. “ElectricBlue” manifest itself in the gap created between the audience’s emotional delirium and the dynamic energy, with the voluminous whiteness of Win Butler on great form. Then it was time for the choral singing by Regine Chassagne, to introduce this song which had never previously been performed live. The visuals at the sides gripped the packed house with the spirit of participation, alternating emotions and choruses, so many choruses, raw, danceable, rhythmic and almost compulsive. The magic moments you couldn’t anticipate, merged into each other, each piece dragging its energy wave and throwing it like a hailstorm into the hands of the money men. Their new baby”Signs of Life” was taken by the hand with”No Cars Go“which was as sensational as it was the first time, which preceded”The Suburbs“, “Ready to Start” and “Reflektor“. The band remembered David Bowie, with a thank you that was perceived as emotionally sincere, almost as if they were his children. The atmosphere rose to a great pathos, which prepared the terrain for the final row of pearls. They got to “After Life“(at which my bourgeois Brazilian journalist chum bursts into tears), the immortal “Wake Up“and then, as celestial as a frenzied prayer,”Neon Bible“which provided a bitter twisting love story for the evening. If we might have expected a song in the line-up, it was the controversial but trilling cover of Lorde’s “Green Light“, but Butler & Co came out of the scene whispering, “You can sing along if you like.” As a testimonial, it gathers an echo that is repeated over and over again endlessly for minutes: the choir of “Oh Oh Oh!” on the chorus of “Wake Up” wanted to call the nine musicians back onstage for a happier encore. But nevertheless, the knowledge of having shared in a small miracle on a hot Milanese night remains. And if it is true that “Everything Is Now“- at this point, we should be grateful to Arcade Fire for having reminded us of the incredible power of live music: it’s a ritual that will never cease to amaze.