When I first heard the rumour that Arcade Fire would be playing The Baths Hall, a charming little local venue that sadly sees few bands making an appearance, I remember saying that I thought there was more chance of me backflipping over the venue than one of the biggest bands of the 21st century playing there. After swiftly eating my words and queueing up in the rain from 4:30am to be certain of being a part of the intimate audience, I felt euphoric to the point that I might actually have been able to make that flip (after all, it seems miracles do happen). So gather round one and all, as I regale you with the legendary tale of one of the most unique and noteworthy gigs in the calendar, and the best thing to happen to Scunny since… well, ever!
The gig ended up being slightly delayed, in part due to heightened security measures in the wake of Manchester, but the extra time gave us chance to reflect on what a surreal situation we had found ourselves in. As the doors finally opened, the crowd rushed to encompass the central stage like a rock swallowed by the rising tide. The drum kit sat at the centre, with the band’s ludicrously vast and varied array of instruments surrounding it, facing the audience. Making an already small crowd feel even more intimate and special, the 360 set-up was a masterstroke in providing the most engaging experience possible for the audience. It wasn’t until the band worked their way through the gathered fans, exchanging high-fives as they ascended the stage that it really dawned on me that this was really happening.
The band moved their way around the small stage, swapping instruments as needed and visiting every angle of the bewildered and bewitched Scunny crowd. The set-list was heavy on tracks from Neon Bible and Reflektor, with the latter’s title track being the first unforgettable moment of the night. Win Butler called for the lights to go down and in their place arose hundreds of phones swaying to the beat and lighting up the stage. Though highlights, and moments that will live on for a long time, came thick and fast, the band’s unplugged rendition of their break-out hit ‘Wake Up’ will be sure to be amongst the most talked about. With little more than an acoustic guitar, and accordion and a simple drum beat, the band relied on us to sing out the soaring melodies at the top of our lungs. It felt like a triumphant celebration of life as we revelled in Arcade Fire’s inescapably joyous aura.
Ending with a bang, providing a world premiere of the funky, Talking Heads-esque new song ‘Signs Of Life’ from their upcoming album Everything Now, the band left their central plinth one by one and worked their way back through the stunned Scunny folk. If I was to be awfully pedantic I’d say it just missed out on being the best concert of my life; I’d have killed for more tracks from The Suburbs and it would have been nice if Win had spent more time over in my corner. I doubt anyone in attendance will deny though that it was a once in a lifetime experience. For that one evening a downtrodden little Lincolnshire town felt like the very centre of the universe. With my dying breath I will still be baffled as to how it all came about (Why Scunthorpe of all places? What godly powers does The Baths Hall possess?) but facts aside it was a life changing experience for this music fan.