Arcade Fire
Dalhalla-Rättvik, Sweden
June 30, 2010

After eight and a half hours in a small crowded car with a backpack stuck on my lap and the rain pouring down I was wondering what the heck I was doing in the middle of nowhere. Could one concert really be worth this much trouble? The rain stopped and walking down the hill into the Dalhalla arena my doubts started dissipating and when the band came out on stage I knew I was in the right place.

Arcade Fire’s visits to Scandinavia have been few and their last visit in 2007 ended with Win Butler having surgery. This time he seemed to be in perfect shape, somewhat dazed to be playing in the middle of an old limestone quarry set in a forest far away from any well-known town. Dalhalla is truly a special place, or as Win put it “we should be thankful to the alien overlords for creating this beautiful place”. As stunning as it is it also demands a lot from the artists that play there. Firstly, the arena holds around 4000 people so the band has to attract a large number of people to come out into the woods. Secondly, there is natural distance between the band and the crowd created by the ten meter wide moat that surrounds the stage. Thirdly, the surroundings raise expectation and a normal show is just not enough.

Arcade Fire had a tough competition with summer holidays, the World Cup, the Peace & Love and Roskilde festivals all being on at the same time. Just over 2000 tickets were sold which felt like an injustice towards the band. The Canadians did do their best though to decrease the distance,  encouraging the audience to come closer. As the band struck the first chords of the second song of the night, “Keep the Car Running” people left their seats and flocked near to the stage. The band seemed to be living up to people’s expectations when they continued with two old songs “No Cars Go” and “Haiti”. Win and the rest seemed genuinely happy to be there and were swapping instruments with one another like chefs swap recipes.

Four songs from the upcoming album, The Suburbs, followed “Haiti”. It was interesting to get a sense of the new album. If it’s anything to go by judging from the songs played at Dalhalla it will not be as grand or as epic as the previous albums, instead being more scaled down. What was epic though was the interweaving of “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and “Rebellion (Lies)”, two huge crowd pleasers. As I looked around the crowd were all smiles and the energy was flowing from the stage. One band member had more energy than the rest and appeared he needed to cool down. After almost falling into the moat by dancing near the edge William Butler threw a drum in and jumped into the water after it.

After about an hour I was surprised to hear Win say that “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” was their last song. Of course there was an encore which consisted of three great songs, including my favorite “Intervention”, but I couldn’t help feel let down. The night was still so young and the sun still up. Maybe I’m greedy, an hour and a half is a decent gig but I just expected more. It was a beautiful concert but it could have been legendary. A few more tickets sold and the band playing a few more songs as the sun set and it could have been the concert of the decade.