As published here: http://www.stand-news.co.uk/arctic-monkeys-behind-the-bars/
Originally written: 18/11/2011
There’s no doubt that the Arctic Monkeys are well and truly back. Packing out arenas worldwide, featuring in NME every other week, inspiring a strangely obsessive fanbase on Tumblr… Yup, sounds like the lads from Sheffield who brought us the indie anthems of our teens have gone the distance. They tick all the boxes and have become bona-fide rock stars.
The anticipation at the AECC is palpable – it’s barely 7pm and already fans are jockeying for the best position at the front of the crowd. Bands like Arctic Monkeys don’t normally venture this far north, but tonight is special. Support band, The Vaccines take to the stage shortly before 8pm, and despite the vocals being quieter than they’d have liked, they do a brilliant job of whipping the crowd into a frenzy, storming through an edited version of their debut album, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’. One fan in particular keeps calling out for ‘Family Friend’, but his calls go unanswered. The band don’t have enough time to play the 8-minute album-closer this evening. Nonetheless, their set is well received, more so than many support bands – probably due to the mainstream fame they’ve received in their own right.
Post-Vaccines set (if you’ll excuse the pun) the crowd grows restless as roadies set up for the night’s headline act. At long last, the strains of ‘Wild Thing’ are heard over the speakers and Alex Turner struts out on to the stage first, to wild cheers from the crowd. Judging from the average age of the audience, most have grown up to the music he and the other Monkeys have made over the years, so tonight many come face-to-face with their musical heroes. Alex and Jamie (Cook, guitarist) look sharp in leather jackets, and the whole band seem to have embraced the rock n’ roll persona ‘Suck It and See’, their latest album, exudes. Sadly Matt’s leather trousers are absent.
They launch straight into the album’s lead single, ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, and the crowd launches its attack on… each other. Mosh pits open up for every song (even slower ones like this) and at times its a chore to move, as those behind pack forward despite there being nowhere else to go. But nobody really minds – Arctic Monkeys continue to play a setlist that seems to please everyone, there’s no absence of hits for those who came on a whim, and there’s a decent number of new album tracks – and ‘Evil Twin’, their latest B-side – to satisfy the more hardcore fans. My only quibble is that, in my opinion, they didn’t play the best tracks from ‘Suck It and See’: ‘Library Pictures’, ‘All My Own Stunts’ and ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’ wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Within a few songs, they moved from ‘Brianstorm’ to ‘Black Treacle’, showing just how their sound has progressed over the years. ‘Pretty Visitors’ inspired one of the most surreal slow-moshes I’ve ever seen, and as the band launch into following track ‘This House is a Circus’, nothing could be more true. ‘Suck It and See’, the first song of the encore, had the crowd still, singing along, as did ‘Mardy Bum’. Closer ‘505’ inspired something of a mixed reaction – a pit opened up next to people huddling together emotionally, belting out the lyrics.
It seems that with Arctic Monkeys, anything goes. Any way you want to react to what’s happening onstage is fine by them; it’s crowd reaction that’s got them through all these years anyhow. It’s certainly brought Alex out of his shell – earlier gig footage shows him staring at the ground, presumably following the dust rolling by in front of the microphone, with minimal audience interaction between songs. Tonight, he provides the banter, and even delivers some moves (he did the Macarena and even executed a power slide at one point).
The band have a great time, the audience love it, and that’s what it all comes down to – one of the UK’s best bands, playing some of their best songs. There’s not much more you can ask for on a cold November night.