The quartet from Sheffield played first of their two highly anticipated sold out gigs at Earls Court in London on the 25th to a myriad of anxious and exuberant fans.
As I was lucky enough to see their headline set at Glastonbury back in June, my envisaged expectations were markedly high. However, it is habitually difficult for bands to transfigure that sacred festival atmosphere into monstrous and characterless arenas which so often lack intimacy and can often erect barriers between the indispensable relationship of the band and the fans. Although as I discovered, Earls Court is distinctively different, partly due to the huge bands it has played the role of an invaluable host venue to such as the infamous Oasis gig in 1995, The Rolling Stones and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Character and history are crucial imperatives for an iconic venue and the historic 1930s arena certainly incorporates those components.
The band walked on to the extended haunting intro to Do I Wanna Know? with the towering, statuesque letters ‘AM’ illuminated behind the band as Alex delved into playing the instantly recognizable riff, of which the crowd harmoniously chanted too. If a riff initiates a mammoth sing-along in complete unison, then that is the self-evident indication that you have made a colossal hit. Alex and co then unleashed Brianstorm to the increasingly psyched up and zealous crowd, which soon descended into beer-throwing, mosh pit-induced chaos, to the point where Alex had to intervene and say ‘You’re going to take care of each other, aren’t you London?’ then immediately propelled the audience back into chaotic turbulence by persisting with the rest of the song. The band now had the crowd in their hands, entranced and anticipating what the rest of the night would entail.
…Such nostalgia suffocates and inhibits progression…
Alex’s enunciated vocals during the set radiated through the masses of fans, without the dishonourable helping hand of a pre-recorded vocals, which so many ‘artists’ or what I like to refer to as ‘Pop Puppets’ rely on today. The band are righteously moving away from relying on songs from Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not and the latest material from AM preponderantly took over the set list last night. Some fans may deem this as a significant flaw in their set, but there is nothing more obsolete and repetitive than a band relying on material they wrote seven years ago. Such nostalgia suffocates and inhibits progression, and Arctic Monkeys are demonstrably keen to progress and reinvented themselves, emphasised by Alex’s slicked back quiff and sartorial elegance in contrast to the scruffy indie look they embraced during the early days. However, for those that may voice their outworn complaints for the lack of old material, they threw in I Bet You Look Good On The Dance floor for old times’ sake. Fireside was perhaps a track on AM which was overlooked by the more domineering, stompy and confident songs such as R U Mine? and Arabella; however last night, it was the track the stood out as the most memorable for me. It sounds almost as if it could be on a Last Shadow Puppets album, but then it throws in a Humbug tinged guitar solo towards the end, combined with Turner’s ingenious lyrics riddled with intricate imagery and metaphors which had the most mesmeric, awe-inspiring effect.
Arctic Monkeys concluded their mesmeric set with I Wanna Be Yours to which confetti was fired and smoke diffused through the immensely crowded arena. The only disappointment perhaps was that Mad Sounds didn’t make it onto the set list, a personal preference to I Wanna Be Yours. However, the end was in fact further in sight and more was to come from the boys in the band, as Alex and company returned to stage and addressed the audience with ‘Can you stand a couple more London?’ to which they received a predictable enthusiastic response. In the encore they played Snap Out Of It and an acoustic version of mardy bum which induced a mass sing-a-long, swaying arms and occasional glimpses of lighters flickering amongst the crowd.
…The album will be looked back on in years to come as the ultimate pinnacle for the band…
Alex’s natural fondness of word-play was enforced one last time as he said ‘Come closer, can I ask you a question?’ and the ended the night with R U Mine? to which beers were thrown, and the crowd knew every word, which just emphasises the universal popularity and profound admiration for AM as an exceptional piece of work. The album will be looked back on in years to come as the ultimate pinnacle for the band; it is their Abbey Road and last night’s performance at Earls court will unequivocally be the pinnacle in their extraordinary journey, just as it was for Oasis. There are few gigs that leave me in an unutterable state of complete awe and unfeigned admiration, but Arctic Monkeys at Earls Court was deservedly one of them.