Arcade Fire, The Astoria, London, 09-05-05

I think not having heard one song by them before last night actually worked in my favour. I approached it with a clean slate. I am a terrible and unrepentant musical snob. I believe I have great taste in music, better than most. And I am not easily impressed.

Arcade Fire blew me away. I had a feeling they'd be really good, reviews have been positive and buzz has been building. I took my place almost at the back of the tiny, cramped and hot Astoria and they just sauntered on with a relaxed smile as the knowingly hip London crowd welcomed them to their biggest gig yet. There are 7 members, almost too many to keep up with the action on stage. A string quartet joined them for a few songs taking the stage head count to 11. They sound like... a shade of Belle & Sebastian with a touch of Talking Heads but, paradoxically, totally original. How rare is that in music these days in the days of identikit bands like Interpol/Thrills/Killers/Franz and so on. They're all the same, Arcade Fire stand head and shoulders above them.

They have great songs. And all the eyeliner and ties in the world can't hide that most bands these days don't. I found myself jumping along with the crowd, most of whom clearly already had the album. I had never heard a song by this band before and in the 75 mins of their performance I was won over. Actually I was won over within 10 mins, the band spark off each other so perfectly, they play so well together and the multi instrumentation works perfectly. Usually when the singer or singers of a band are also musicians there's an element of just standing there without engaging the audience in a way that a hands free singer can. They didn't fall into that trap, they connected on every level with the rabid and adoring audience.

They deserve their plaudits. This morning I ordered 2 copies of the album, one for me and one for my dad. It's just his kind of thing, he'll love it. In fact I predict it will become one of his albums of the year. I may have great taste but my dad's is even better.

So, Arcade Fire really are the next big thing. I can't remember the last time a band thrilled me that much live on first hearing. And I certainly can't remember ever being blown away like that by a band whose songs I'd never heard before.