Arctic Monkeys don’t do between-song banter. It’s a fact; they don’t. The perennially sulky Sheffielders, it must be said, don’t really need to (then again, does any band need to?); they appear on stage to earsplitting applause, Alex Turner mutters something inaudible into the microphone, and the opening riff of ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ induces the crowd to bounce like they were on space hoppers.
Yes, they’ve come a long way since MySpace. Tonight, the open expanse of S.E.C.C’s Hall 4 is their space; a roomy chasm into which their half-decade worth of hits can reverberate.
One of the busiest working bands in the music business, the Monkeys have already got four albums under their belt; not bad for a band whose members are still a good five years away from the big three-oh. One wonders what Alex Turner will write about in the next ten years. He’s already done ennui, fame and prostitution, after all.
That’s for the future, though. For now, the Arctic Monkeys comprise four lads in their mid-twenties having a ball. ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ starts this gig off on the right note, and the crowd sing along eagerly. Turner’s guitar is heavy and spirited, and Matt Helders‘ drums clangourous. The band have undergone a slight style change in recent months, with Turner trading in his trademark Madchester-style mop and Polo shirt for Joe Strummer’s hair tonic-drenched bird’s nest and denim jacket. You almost expect him to snarl.
Live favourite ‘Teddy Picker’ continues in the same fist-pumping vein as ‘Suck it and See’s lead single, and the line ‘Save it for the morning after’ prompts a wave-like spinnaker of raised, balled fists. The anti-fame lyrics also seem particularly resonant in light of all the X-Factor related dirty washing airing in the news at the moment. ‘D’you reckon they do it for a joke?’ Turner is a master of the rhetorical question.
The pace of this gig’s beginning is blistering, as ‘Crying Lightning’ comes next, another rousing crowd pleaser, but even when this band slow it down, they can’t escape the adoration of their partisans. ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ demonstrates that particularly well; what should be a mid-tempo break in the action turns into a glorious singalong, and the interlinking of fans’ arms. Who needs mid-song banter?
Speaking almost exclusively to introduce song titles, and once or twice remarking how glad they are to be here, Turner focuses on hitting every note perfectly. One gets the sense Arctic Monkeys are proud musicians, and though they revel in the crowd’s fanfare, they like to replicate their albums’ sound perfectly. With that in mind, the renditions of their tunes tonight don’t sound simply like carbon copies; their live dynamic is very strong, and their sound undeniably beefier and more virile than it is on CD.
‘Black Treacle’ allows for something of a breather, although the majority of the crowd have had enough time to devour ‘Suck it and See’ to mouth most of the lyrics, but ‘Brianstorm’ is a call-to-arms blitzkrieg that provokes a frenzy. Plastic beer cup projectiles launch through the air, and someone tosses what looks like a scarf directly at Turner. A comparatively dark number in the band’s back catalogue,’ Brianstorm’ translates insanely well to the live environment, its bass drum and basslines booming from the Marshall stacks and commanding the crowd.
The audience, incidentally, is a motley crew of teenaged fan-boys (and girls; some of whom would’ve been too young when ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ was released to obtain it with their pocket money), drunk chavs, music poindexters and – the vast majority – Joe Publics, like me, keen to see one of the most famous bands in the country do their thing.
Each of them are rapt when ‘Brianstorm’ leads to a one-two punch from their debut, ‘The View From The Afternoon’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, Helders’ vocals on the latter getting an encouraging cheer; the drummer is an intrinsic part of this band, in many ways more the binding glue than Turner; it is his relentless pounding on the drums that is the engine of these tracks. One gets the sense he would spot a Helders-shaped gorge in the Monkeys chemistry if the chirpy sticksman were to pack it all in tomorrow.
Who would give up all of this though? Tonight this act are on scintillating form, emperors of the stage, and new track ‘Evil Twin’ breathes unneeded fire into their oeuvre (incidentally, Helders plays a prominent role in the Americana music video of this one).
The set tapers slightly towards its conclusion, but I do stress the word slightly. ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ and the manic, joie de vivre of ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ keep the crowd baying for more, and ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ results in this writer being drenched by yet another sailing beer cup. Jollity is in the air, a reluctance to let anything less than everything hang the fuck out.
It’s well known Glasgow is a great city for live music, and Arctic Monkeys are playing the audience as well as they are their guitars. And without crowd banter? Surely some hypnosis is involved.
The foursome depart the stage amid the receding notes of ‘When The Sun Goes Down’, and given this band’s penchant for eschewing the norm you almost don’t expect an encore. But you’re wrong, of course, and yet more hits are rolled out. It’s quite hard to believe such a young band possess as engorged a back catalogue. Just when you thought they had ploughed their archive of crowd pleasers, out comes ‘Mardy Bum’ for the biggest singalong of the night (Turner defers a chorus worth of vocals and lets Glasgow belt it out), followed by the ultimate set closer – ‘505’. ’505’s sliding guitar duties are taken up by Turner, in lieu of pal Miles Kane, but the master doesn’t put a finger wrong.
What else did you expect?