I first saw Arctic Monkeys when they were on their frenzied, word of mouth, MySpace inspired rise, at the 300 capacity Cluny in Newcastle, in what must have been 2005. I have to admit that it didn’t really give me the hard on that others seemed to be getting about them at that time. They were good, yeah, especially after the music no man lands of The Stereophonics and Travis which had occupied the previous years’ covers of NME, with the brief interruption of the scruffy smack chic of The Libertines. I suppose in hindsight I had been spoilt with Oasis during my teens and after the madness of ’95, ’96 and ’97 I had foolishly assumed this was the norm. It wasn’t however, and it was never going to be replicated. For the first time since then a new musical landscape had formed with Arctic Monkeys and their internet craze leading the way and in the process becoming the most talked about bands in years before they’d even put a record out, or had a shave.
Their debut album, ‘Whatever People Say’ went onto be the fastest selling debut in history. I liked the album. Well, I more than liked it. The likes of ‘San Francisco’ and ‘Sun Goes Down’ were instant classics. I also loved the way the band, Helders in particular, talked openly about their musical influences citing all sorts of hip hop and house records which I was also into. This was a massively refreshing change from the other ‘scenester’ bands that were their peers at the time. But there was something missing for me and they never quite managed to win me over despite these cracking moments. Follow up albums followed suit. Some brilliant moments, but very much simmering under my radar. At this point last year if you had of asked me about them I probably would’ve told you they were a massive wet fart and had been found out. Destined to go down in history as some form of cult band and not able to live up to their hype.
Well that shows what I fucking know.
Have you heard AM?
There is not much to say about the record that hasn’t already been said. It’s a head twistingly good record, the likes of which bands just don’t put out. A proper jewel in the crown. I expect it clean up in all the award ceremonies for ‘album of the year’ and probably this week’s Mercury Prize too. As well as finally getting every round peg into round holes they have one of the best live shows around, as highlighted that the fact the touts were selling tickets for this gig for upwards of £200.
The 10,000 capacity Echo Arena was chocker and there was a buzz around the place like I hadn’t seen for any other band in there. I hate arenas like this too. They are generally soulless identikits and the cold concrete concourses hardly inspire a top night out. But the Arctic Monkeys managed to turn it into a cauldron of united positive energy like only they could with their spikey and ultra creative grooves.
Their set list was right on the money as they managed to get a cracking balance between their new album and the older stuff. Whereas songs such as ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Teddy Picker’ were once the highlight of the set, they are now no longer automatic inclusions and have been surpassed by new songs like ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and ‘Arbella’.
With Alex Turner’s bezzie Miles Kane otherwise engaged the appearance of the gobshite ‘mod’ was a welcome absence for me. We were however treated to a more worthy special guest in the form of Bill Ryder-Jones. He appeared first for ‘Fireside’ then reappeared for ‘Pretty Visitors’, ‘No 1 Party Anthem’ and set closer ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.
As the lads returned for an encore they played a tribute to Lou Reed with an unexpected cover ‘Walk On The Wild Side’. Nice touch. Not only that, they pulled it off as if it had been part of their set for years. ‘Snap Out Of It’ and ‘R U Mine’ brought the encore to a close on what was a memorable night. This is a band on top of their game, both creatively and playing live. I am genuinely excited to see where they go next and it’s fair to say now, I fully have a hard on.
Do I Wanna Know
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
One For The Road
Old Yellow Bricks
Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
No 1 Party Anthem
I Wanna Be Yours
Walk On The Wild Side
Snap Out Of It
R U Mine