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A smoke-filled stage, flickering lights, and a neon ‘A M’ throbbing in the background. The four members of Arctic Monkeys strutted assertively on stage, accompanied by extra hands on percussion, guitars, and keys in the background. Frontman Alex Turner greeted the fans with a seductive “Hello.” A slick of the hair, and they launched straight into Do I Wanna Know? From its outset, their performance was like whiskey swirling around a glass – smooth and timelessly appealing.
Each track was given gentle attention, as the crowd greedily lapped up a battle between the older and newer hits. Brianstorm created the evening’s biggest deluge of excitement, with those in the stands leaping from their seats as a mosh whirled below. Some were already being pulled from the crowd as it had quickly become too much. Fluorescent Adolescent was almost a reprieve in its short-and-sweet pop melodies, a reminder of the softer side of the band, before they launched into the classic I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor.
All who took their seats during the previous cut immediately sprung upright to indulge in some shameless thrashing and full-voiced chanting. The band’s penchant for a ripper slog of shredding guitars held its own nearly 10 years on from their debut. For it to still have the same impact on a live stage — while hardly surprising — should certainly be celebrated.
The riffs grew louder and more ominous with the ode to strange love, She’s Thunderstorms, giving Turner’s vocals a chance to walk around and stretch their legs, after facing hurdles in the previous songs. His boyish croon was sweeping the ladies of the audience up in hair-gelled euphoria, and the cloud of pheromones did not disperse as Fireside was introduced. Knee Socks kept the pace mellow, but a little silkier than before.
The band’s latest album, AM, is a showcase of these controlled, simmering songs, a possible reaction to the relentless go-go of previous releases. The Arctics do not succumb to the pitfalls of the mature album progressions of similar rock outfits, who create a boring spectrum narrowed by specific sounds. Their more recent tracks are playful in texture, sonically adventurous, and self-assured. More than ever, Turner’s moves are smooth and his comb is never far from hand.
They wrapped up the first set with 505, a slow-burner which gave no indication of a final goodbye. The cheers and howls continued through the dimmed lights, until the band’s return to the stage. Opening this time with Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, the band sought to match the speed and ferocity they displayed earlier. Gradually, phones illuminated the venue, swaying like modern-day lighters to a song close to the hearts of devoted fans.
Finally, the twangs of R U Mine were released and the screams were thunderous. The vocals were eventually muted, the background dimmed for fans to give their voice, and a seamless singalong ensued. It continued past the verse and into the chorus, where it became clear that some sort of technical error had occurred – the volume switch hadn’t been reinstated.
Good sports as they were, the band played out the song and Turner promptly stomped over to the sound desk for some sort of explanation. Finally, he returned with more questions than answers. “Well, we better do that again!” And so we did. More excitement than before, plenty more gusto, the fitting final notes to a concert full of surprise and ease.
(Photos by Charlyn Cameron)