Arctic Monkeys

Venue: Don Valley Bowl, Sheffield
Date: 10th June 2011

As someone who travelled a not-inconsiderable distance to see the Arctic Monkeys in Sheffield on Friday 10th June, arriving at the venue in the band's home town felt like a kind of pilgrimage. Passing road signs listing the familiar names of places mentioned in songs, catching a glimpse of some of the seedier sides of the city, which conjured up lyrics from early records like ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ and hearing the heart-warming accents of the local contingent, set the scene to perfection.

"Now then. Let's start at the beginning shall we?", was Alex Turner’s opening line, before ploughing straight into ‘The View from the Afternoon’; the perfect song to lead into what was to be an inspired choice of career-spanning material. Old favourites blended seamlessly with songs from the new album, ‘Suck It And See’, with tracks like ‘Library Pictures’ sitting comfortably next to classics like ‘Teddy Picker’.

At times there was a hedonistic air of nostalgia floating round the tent. The reintroduction of an almost acoustic 'Mardy Bum' to the set list was greeted with utter delight and a unison of sing-along voices, often taking over Turner's part, with the singer declaring afterwards, 'you’ve always been much better at singing that than me'. As a song that has, on occasion, attracted the criticism of being overrated by fans and critics alike, it certainly still felt hugely relevant and the rendition left goose bumps on many an arm; including mine. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit that it brought a tear to my eye.

Current single, ‘Don't Sit Down Cos I Moved Your Chair’, was also met with approval and the other five songs chosen from the new album (‘Library Pictures’, ‘Brick by Brick’, ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’, ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ ,and ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’) highlighted the band's success at maintaining a recognisable sound without compromising on originality and clear development. Less dark than its predecessor 'Humbug' the new album provides a selection of more uplifting riffs and often retro-feeling guitar hooks, supporting the ever creative and often genius lyrics that the band are so loved and respected for.
The main set came to a close with a storming performance of ‘505’, as Miles Kane rejoined the stage to give his support on guitar, heralded by Alex Turner as “My Hero, Miles fucking Kane”. The band then went on to give an unforgettable encore, giving an airing to ‘When The Sun Goes Down’, ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and, to the thrill of the crowd, ‘A Certain Romance’.

Whether or not you can get past the development of the band from the heavier, faster paced anthems of the earlier albums to the more melodious sound of the latest offerings (which are, nonetheless, still peppered with some more hectic moments), there is no denying that Arctic Monkeys are a group of gifted musicians and song writers, who are in their element as live performers.

Marketed as a 'home coming' gig, the crowd were always likely to be made up predominantly of loyal fans, but biased opinions aside, on the way out many were describing it as one of the best gigs they'd been to. And they weren't wrong. In fact, the loyalty of the fans helped to make it so. It had a feeling of intimacy about it, despite the 10,000 strong crowds. It was as though everyone there had shared a rare and perfect experience. From start to finish, it felt like the band held the captivation of every single person in the purpose built tent. The sound quality was superb, the musicianship flawless and the atmosphere second to none. And for me that's what live music is all about.

As much as I'd like to balance this review out with some negatives, the only disappointment I personally experienced lay with the typically overpriced (and over-salted) Chow Mein I picked up from one of the food vans. Oh, and the fact that I only wish I'd been able to relive it on the following day for round two!

This was an absolute triumph of a gig that left everyone wanting more. And isn’t it good to see that, in the current world of music, so often overshadowed by over-hyped, under-talented and over-auto-tuned production line bilge, a band from Sheffield can so definitively remind you that all’s not lost?


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