Arcade Fire, Brixton, London, 19-03-07

Joyous. That's the best word on earth to describe seeing Arcade Fire live.

In May 2005 I got a spare ticket to see AF at the Astoria in London. I'd never heard one song. And they blew my head off. No other band has had such an effect on me on first play. That night they were all squashed onto a smallish stage, running around from side to side, swapping instruments; they created the most exquisite noise and it was one of those gigs you never forget.

I got Neon Bible at the beginning of last week and on first play, I was underwhelmed. I berated myself for having expected the songs to be immediate and briefly worried about my attention span, since the Gossip album had jumped right into my brain the week before. But that's an album that I don't feel the need to listen to over and over, obsessively - and yet that's exactly what's happened with Neon Bible. It's under my skin now, that album. It's, in the old fashioned musical term, a grower; an album of tremendous depth and opulent arrangements. It fills my room with sound and has a life of its own. It's a remarkable piece of work that will only get better.

On Saturday, after a bit of ticket-getting luck, I saw them again live. Seven days after I stood in the Brixton Academy and saw NIN I stood in the same venue waiting to hear how Neon Bible sounds live. Sure, I was looking forward to tracks from Funeral but really I was there to get another play of the new album, this time live.

The stage set was simplistically beautiful - four vertical light bars spread across the stage; a huge curtain for projections at the back; five light boxes a few feet high with white circles for visuals (often the Neon Bible album cover or shots of the band, plenty of red light on stage at all times) and the most dizzying array of instruments seen outside a classical concert. Spotting them became a game as we waited for them to come on - aside from the obvious guitars/drums/bass we spotted a piano, double bass, xylophone, keyboard, French horn, accordion and hurdy gurdy. And when the band walked on there was of course the violin and viola players to the right. Given the arrangements you can't imagine any less than the 7 band members plus the 3 additional musicians being able to play these songs. Oh, and a pipe organ too at the back which must have been at least 15 feet high.

You would think this would create the 'I don't know where to look' effect thus making it distracting to have so much to feast the eyes on but it didn’t work like that. The sound is a collective, a huge wave coming off the stage. It seemed to take both band and crowd five or so songs to get into it. The new album has only been out a couple of weeks after all so it was bound to be a Funeral song that got everyone going. After that it was a blur of energy; the crowd bounced and sang and the band fed off the crowd - from grinning and singing at the front rows to bashing a drum high above a head, it's clear AF get great pleasure from playing live.

The sound was good, after a fashion, and it was hard to keep up with the band members who kept swapping instruments. You had to chuckle as Regine in particular did an entire circuit of the stage having played violin, accordion, keyboards and drums, all while singing. Highlights for me were No Cars Go and Rebellion but it was all superb. Not many bands could get away with the ending either - an unamplified cover of the Clash's Guns of Brixton with loudhailers. You couldn't hear it but no-one cared. Neon Bible is a dramatic step forward from Funeral. There's not much more that's musically satisfying than liking a cracker of a debut album and seeing the so-called difficult second album blow it out of the water. There truly is no other band on earth like them. And if they do start to spread their influence, already seen in English band The Guillemots, they will surely remain the best at what they do.

Keep The Car Running
No Cars Go
Black Wave/BV
Ocean of Noise
The Well & The Lighthouse
Power Out
Wake Up
Guns of Brixton