Gig Review by Nic Jones
It started quietly, overnight. One YouTube upload, one tweet, one Facebook post. The Arctic Monkeys unleashed ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and took over 2013. It continued on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. Drum beats and the opening of a guitar riff silencing the critical anticipation and hype. The deal was sealed with the unveiling of ‘AM’; Arctic Monkeys were back and ready to be bigger than ever.
Now we’re in the largest arena in Manchester on the second evening of the ‘AM’ tour as 16,000 people bounce up and down shout the lyrics “Crawling back to you…”. The band’s masterplan has been a success, few groups could garner this reception in such a massive venue and live up to the hype. Accompanied by a smoky stage set pierced with red, green and yellow lazer lights and a giant ‘AM’ lighting backdrop, they kick off almost two hours of unadulterated and unapologetic bluesy indie rock. For lack of better wording: they smash it out of the park.
Having been around for years now, the Arctics have had to mix things up to continue to impress. New material from critical and commercial hit album ‘AM’ livens up the set with serious gusto. It’s like the process of making ‘AM’ and performing it has resuscitated the older tracks. ‘Dancing Shoes’ feels like a track off the new album. ‘I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor’ has people rocketing around, crazier than ever before. Everything feels fresher, dirtier, sexier, sleazier and more exciting. It’s as if an electric shock or blast of lightning has coursed through the Monkeys, leaving them rejuvenated. ‘AM’ album tracks ‘One For The Road,’, ‘Fireside’, ‘Arabella’, ‘No.1 Party Anthem, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ and ‘Snap Out Of It’ have all already become classics with fans; every note Turner sings has the crowd right there on the lyrics with him.
It’s impossible to write about this gig without acknowledging one core thing; We Need To Talk About Alex Turner. In the early days of the Arctic Monkeys the enigmatic and wide-eyed Turner charmed the world with his eccentric song writing skills, but a lack of showmanship on stage perhaps led some people to doubt his front-man credentials. Could someone so seemingly reserved really lead this band to be one of the biggest in the world? The answer after hard work, experience and true grit, is YES.
Turner’s transformation is quite remarkable. A lot has been made of it in the press already. One band this week even misguidedly labelled it an ‘Elvis impersonation’ – it’s not and it’s lazy to call it that. Turner may have created a new stage persona for himself but it’s not a copy, it’s an evolution. As Turner has said himself he’s always been expressive on stage, rather than just move his hands these days he puts his whole-self into it, he commits. It makes ALL the difference. Now we have a Turner who gyrates around and swings his hips to the seductive blues beats, who dedicates songs to the swooning ladies, who gets lost in guitar riffs and takes us all with him. Now we have the beginnings of a memorable rock star who can lead grown men to unabashedly scream “I FUCKING LOVE YOU ALEX TURNER”. This Turner can launch the Monkeys intro stratosphere.
Before it’s possible to properly process what the Monkeys have just accomplished and how many hits they’ve played the main set comes to an end with ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ easily established as a new Arctic fans anthem. Confetti and smoke is blasted into the Arena putting a romantic spin on events. They want to us to remember this. The crowd is deafening as the band stroll back onto stage for the encore, Turner casually swigging a can of beer as only a man who knows he’s enraptured the audience can. Finishing on a high note with ‘R U Mine?’ the Monkeys leave the stage in an unequivocal blaze of glory. They say a good live show should leave you wanting more. Arctic Monkeys just reinvented the meaning of that phrase.
Setlist: Do I Wanna Know?, Brianstorm, Dancing Shoes, Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair, Teddy Picker, Crying Lightning, One For The Road, Fireside, Reckless Serenade, Yellow Bricks, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, Arabella, Pretty Visitors, I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor, Cornerstone, No. 1 Party Anthem, Florescent Adolescent, I Wanna Be Yours.
Encore: Snap Out Of It, Mardy Bum, R U Mine?