Arcade Fire are back. KOKO is back. What could be better?
Adam England
00:00 30th April 2022

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The opening of Camden’s iconic KOKO is something that has been eagerly awaited for a long time, as has the return of Arcade Fire to the UK, so why not kill two birds with one stone? 

It’s the Montreal indie icons’ first UK show since 2018, and their first without long-time member Will Butler, who departed last year. With their upcoming sixth studio album being their first since 2017, too, it feels somewhat fitting that they’re headlining the grand re-opening - a sort of double-whammy return. 

Of course, KOKO looks stunning. From the entrance to the rooftop terrace, and of course the stage, it’s the very definition of beauty. The £70m spend on renovating the venue has clearly been put to expert use as the venue prepares to re-announce itself as a key creative space in not only London but the UK too. 

With a haze of purple smoke emanating from the stage, it’s clear that something is afoot. The band emerge to plenty of cheers, and we kick off with the as-yet unreleased song Age of Anxiety, one the band had previously showcased during their Bowery Ballroom shows last month. From there, however, we dial things back a good decade with Ready To Start, and then The Suburbs. Big fan-favourites, the crowd very much approves, and it’s clear that we’re in for an excellent night of live music. 

It’s not as if Arcade Fire need to get the crowd onside, with everyone clearly thrilled to be here, but frontman Win Butler does no harm by proclaiming KOKO “legendary” and telling the audience how honoured the band are to be at the venue, as he shares the spotlight with his wife and bandmate Regine Chassagne - and of course the rest of the team. 

They take things back to the beginning with the explosive, pulsating Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), complete with tambourines, and the crowd are loving it, before new track Generation A is introduced. “Thank you to The Clash for existing – we’d be fucked without The Clash”, proclaims Butler, paying tribute to one of the city’s most iconic bands, before he asks the crowd to bring it down a notch slightly for ‘My Body Is a Cage’. 

There’s a real mix as we go on a journey through Arcade Fire’s back catalogue. As probably expected, there are a whole host of tracks from the upcoming WE, while The Suburbs and Funeral are also well represented. From Reflektor, there’s ‘Afterlife’ and then the title track, another that’s incredibly well-received as a party atmosphere is created. 

“Thank you London!” exclaims Win after a rendition of ‘Everything Now’, as the band go off to cries of encore. Of course, they’re only too happy to oblige and there’s time for another five tracks, beginning with The Lightning I and The Lightning II. There’s no sign of the band making a quiet exit any time soon, either, as giant inflatable figures pop up and make the stage their own, sharing the spotlight with Butler, Chassagne and co. 

To finish, there’s a live debut for ‘End of the Empire I-IV’, which takes a look at the state of modern America in the technological age. For this, the live feed is cut off, and Chassagne encourages an understandably nervous Butler to showcase what could well be one of the songs of the year.

Arcade Fire are back. KOKO is back. What could be better?

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Photo: Ant Adams