I haven't been to many concerts in my time, but the ones that I have were utterly brilliant. As you'll see from one of the previous musical posts, we're big Arctic Monkeys fans over here at UNTITLED, and I had the pleasure of seeing the boys from Sheffield back at the start of September on their opening night at the O2. This performance, along with others throughout this tour, cemented their position as one of the best live acts in both music today and also as one of the best British live acts of all time, alongside the likes of Oasis (that Knebworth '96 performance especially) and Paul McCartney (a man who plays for two and three-quarter hours with no breaks or interval).
You'd have thought with the general reaction to the boys' latest effort Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the biggest musical u-turn in their history, that some fans wouldn't have bothered to turn up and hear the new things live. As famed radio presenter Danny Baker once said, "The worst thing that a band can say is "And here's something off our new album..."" before misdirecting the crowd who've only come to hear what they love and what they know. Unfortunately, in a way, fans who would have gone to hear the earlier songs (Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But... or Still Take You Home) would be sorely disappointed.
Red flashing lights started and then we're graced with the boys from High Green, Sheffield. Having been a lover of the new album from release day, I was hoping for a few new tracks mixed with perhaps some obscurities and some live staples. Four Out Of Five acted as the band's opener which saw Turner ditch his now signature Fender Jazzmaster initially to act as that lounge singer right from the beginning. He delivered his vocal with the crowd singing the choruses and some of the verse. A top opening to set the mood perfectly.
The band then upped the tempo and energy massively with fan-favourite Brianstorm from 2007's Favourite Worst Nightmare. The crowd sang the entire song with Turner, instrumental included, whilst going wild as the band went mental on stage. Turner, with Jazzmaster now firmly grasped, rocked through Brianstorm with the crowd in the palm of his hand. We got a magnificent drum solo from Matt Helders that teased the return of this wall of noise that ceased as the lights suddenly flashed off.
Snap Out Of It and another massive crowd singalong ensued, except this version of this song felt like it had more definition and was a more complete track than the original, which is also rather good. The best part of this version was the falsettos being hit wonderfully with the crowd helping Turner on every bar. Then followed Crying Lightning, a personal favourite from 2009's Humbug, with Turner's voice sounding as velvet smooth as it did nine years ago, but as time has gone on, the song seems to have gained more attitude, which was greatly aided by the lighting. Turner's haunting riff, O'Malley's signature bassline and Helders' impressive drum work make this a pitch-perfect rendition of an already amazing track.
Turner's introduction of "We'd like to play something from our second LP, Favourite Worst Nightmare; this one's called Teddy Picker.." made the crowd cheer wildly and start singing along with the signature riff. Once again, there's this bluntness attached to the song that was there went it was first released eleven years ago, but the song's taken on a new refinement - a pretty key aspect to both their latest release and also this live performance so far. Following on from Teddy Picker was another track from the boys' 2007 record with 505 being played, before which came the introduction of old mucker Miles Kane. It's been customary for Kane to join the boys on-stage for 505 at large performances playing lead guitar as he did on the original recording. Turner and Kane have recorded together in the past with their supergroup side project The Last Shadow Puppets, who also happen to be rather good. Kane's appearance was welcome and the song gave the crowd and indeed the band a breather with the down-tempo, piano-driven song being played to the baying crowd who, as always it seems, were singing their hearts out. Kane's cameo was only for 505, although there was a part of me hoping for at least one Shadow Puppets number on the rather minor off-chance...
Before the title track from Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, came a well-thought out jam entitled The Jam Of Boston which acted as an energetic segue. It was the first time when there seemed to be a slight lull in the crowd and this was probably down to the fact that it is a new song. Although, this version of the title track was a superb rendition and saw the whole seventies vibe continue on perfectly from the opener. Following this came another 2007 track, Do Me A Favour - a track that I personally don't mind, although it isn't one I haven't really listened to by comparison to the rest of that album. The lyrical delivery was conversational and Turner's slightly American twang suited the song more so than the original in my personal opinion.
I was astonished that nothing had been played from the 2011 masterpiece, Suck It And See but soon enough, the opening riff from Don't Sit Down'Cause I've Moved Your Chair caused cheers and a mass singalong yet again. This was accompanied by more tremendously aggressive drum work from Helders and a slightly darker feeling to the song with Turner's blunt and low, conversational register. Another element that made this track one of the many highlights of the evening was the great lighting from the guys at the side of the stage - top marks for that.
The lights descended quickly and soon after came the first inkling of early fan-favourite Dancing Shoes which got a great reaction from the crowd with mass-cheering and the most enthusiastic singing I heard all night, myself included. It's one of the first times this song had been played since 2014, having been played on the opening night of the UK leg of the tour in Manchester beforehand. The same attitude from twelve years ago was present in this updated version and once again, Turner's vocal was crisp and pristine. One of the best moments of the evening.
"Thank you very much, are you having a nice time? I am! [crowd cheers] I'm having a bloody nice time; it's nice to be here", Turner shouted, before the opening chords of new song One Point Perspective struck up, which caused a small, but quickly resolved lull in the crowd. This is one of the more-loved tracks on the new LP. The version of One Point Perspective was especially conversational on this night which only made the song better and it sounded and looked better than the studio version with a great guitar solo and visual proof of Turner losing his train of thought rather wonderfully. After this came another slice of Humbug in the form of Cornerstone. Now, this version featured one of the most passionate vocals I've ever heard. It was velvet-smooth and with the song's now lower tempo, it allowed him to ring out the pure emotion in every syllable. In addition, his voice perfectly complemented the melancholic guitar notes in the background and made for a wonderfully complete performance.
That version of Cornerstone was pretty hard to follow but the boys did with two tracks from 2013's AM - Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High? and Knee Socks. The version of Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High? was pretty good, although a little slower than the original but it did feature more of an organ-based backing which proved to be a neat addition. The introduction of Knee Socks was especially funky and the haunting bassline continued throughout the song. This was better than the album version as there's a more defined and down-tempo funky sound to it, that gives it the edge; the falsettos were also damn good here too!
After Knee Socks' mass singalong had finished came a bit of a gap, before the boys pulled a rabbit out of a hat with a very rare performance of new track Science Fiction. Much to my dismay, it appeared that the crowd got pretty bored during Science Fiction and some of them left. They soon scurried back with the now signature riff of perhaps the Monkeys' most famous track Do I Wanna Know? teasing them to return and they did in droves. The song prompted probably the loudest singalong of the night and the largest crowd reaction to what is probably the most commercialised Arctic Monkeys track these days. Nonetheless, it proved to be a truly magical experience being in the midst of a sold-out O2 crowd singalong at the top of your voice.
What followed was something pretty special. The crowd were re-energised and the evil organ of Pretty Visitors came in like a kick in the teeth, with Turner getting really involved in the vocal, becoming animated with every passing bar and line of absurdly wonderful lyrics. As a track, Pretty Visitors on this night was punchy, loud and violent - everything that needed to capitalise on the energy brought around by the end of Do I Wanna Know?. Following Pretty Visitors came the classic I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, preceded by Turner uttering his classic line of "Ladies!", though less energetic than usual. Regardless, the song carried the same energy as always and prompted one of the biggest crowd reactions, as well as one of the most passionate singalongs of the evening.
After a short break, the boys returned to huge applause for an encore and delved straight into new album opener Star Treatment to a mixed response. There was a slight change to the set with the spinning, illuminated cube descending to the side of the stage. The song really gave the start of the encore a more relaxed and loosened feel.
Then followed some outstanding versions of Arabella and R U Mine?. Arabella came first with a deep and heavy bassline and Turner's slick and silky vocal proving perfect and there's a certain soulfulness attached that isn't on the recorded version. Then came the boys' last hurrah for the evening in the form of an aggressive version of R U Mine?. This reflected the moment perfectly, with intensity that encapsulated a rather perfect evening before the final crescendo. The final chord sparked a rapturous reaction from the crowd to close what turned out to be a fantastically perfect evening.
Don't Believe The Hype.