Leather Jackets, denim, quiffs. Some things are eternally cool, Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys reminds us as he walks out to a hysterically rammed London 02 arena on a Saturday night. The frontman’s ‘new’ old look is suitably in tune with the aesthetic at play on their latest album, ‘Suck it and See’. Their fourth album, of which this current tour is promoting, is a stunning collection of timeless sounding songs, perfectly combining almost everything great about pop, indie and rock and roll. Take for example, a song like ‘Reckless Serenade’ which manages to begin with a bass-line reminiscent of The Pixies, then ends with lilting guitar licks that seem to borrow the melody of Nina Simone’s ‘Aint Got No’ (I Got Life.) Surprisingly this song doesn’t appear on the set-list tonight which goes to the show the true quality and depth of songs Alex and co have to choose from, now 4 albums and 6 years into their career.
Beginning with ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, the unlikely first single to be taken from ‘Suck It and See’ and surely their heaviest song to date, it sounds truly triumphant, blasting from the Arena’s mammoth speakers. Straight into ‘Teddy Picker’ then and already the crowd is treated to one of those fan favourites which make up a good chunk of tonight’s set, including the likes of hit singles ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and ‘When The Sun Goes Down’. Strangely it takes ‘Black Treacle’, a dizzy slice of pop brilliance from their new record, before the wings are up from their seats, wide mouthed and hands in the air.
What ‘Teddy Picker’ does manage to display however, is the band’s ever growing confidence and tightness. After an unusually long pause, Alex twirls around the stage, before exclaiming the final “you!” at the refrain of the song. Likewise in the ‘View From The Afternoon’, during another longer pause to heighten excitement, all four of the lads take a perfectly synched swig from their bottles of lager on stage, as if they were all suddenly possessed by the ghost of Keith Moon. This might very well be the case for drummer Matt Helders, who as always is a powerhouse behind the kit tonight, whilst showing off an impressive new talent for stick catching. Alex on the other hand, looks like another kind of rock icon as he drops to his knees for the guitar solo in ‘Brick by Brick.’ It all makes 2005-2007 seem a long time ago, when his stage persona was hunched shouldered and awkward, his guitar swinging just below his nipples.
That’s not to say Arctic Monkeys shows on previous tours weren’t always a revelation, yet there was sometimes the issue of sound problems. Many who attended the band’s headlining set during Glastonbury 2007 will remember this. Tonight however, there are no such issues. The arena’s sound system seems to really compliment the group’s dalliance with early heavy metal. A direction change, displayed in a few of their songs from their last album ‘Humbug.’ ‘Pretty Visitors’ is like Queens of the Stone Age meets John Cooper Clarke, but even earlier songs like ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ and ‘Still Take You Home’ sound more akin to the proto-metal/punk of ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath, rather than the Buzzcocks esque ramschackle that earlier renditions aped.
Another fan favourite arrives during the encore, in the form of ‘Mardy Bum’, this song has been getting a rare airing during gigs on this tour, yet still lingers like a phantom, in an uncompromising stripped down performance. The audience can’t help but linger for that bouncy guitar riff from the studio version of the song. Jamie Cook’s solo guitar line however, shimmers during the middle eight, as does all of his licks and riffs, once again benefitting from the Arena’s grand sound system.
Alex’s chat tonight is typically minimal. His constant address to the 02 by its former name ‘How’s it going Millennium Dome?’ is where his banter ends (Save for a dig at collaborator Miles Kane, taking to the stage in a red blazer to play his guitar part on closer ‘505’ ‘Straight from Butlins!’ Turner sniggers), but the rest is necessary, including a croon of ‘fucking pack it in!’ to some scrappers at the end of ‘Still Take You Home’ and a brief tribute to recently deceased television presenter Jimmy Savile.
Bass, Guitars, Drums each one is perfect, allowing the intricacies of songs from ‘Suck it and See’ to ring across this colossal venue. While those songs that made you first fall in love with the Sheffield Lads have never sounded so good. Tonight is a reminder that the Arctic Monkeys are now one of the best live bands in the world. The boys exit the massive stage, looking like they were born to do this. Before Alex turns his back to the elated audience of over 20,000 people he grabs his leather jacket, putting it on once again, like a rock and roll uniform.
CLICK HERE FOR OFFICIAL TICKETS FOR ARCTIC MONKEYS