For a band that’s already headlined Glastonbury twice and played to an audience of billions at the London 2012 Olympics’ opening ceremony, the inevitable question arises of: ‘what’s left for the Arctic Monkeys to achieve?’ Playing a two day residency at London’s Finsbury Park – previously home to open-air gigs by The Stone Roses, Oasis and The Sex Pistols as well as the venue where Jimi Hendrix famously burned his guitar on stage for the first time in 1967 – is an attempt to answer that, with the second night allowing them to emerge triumphant as one of the best live bands of the last decade.
Dressed up like they’d just fallen out of a casino in Las Vegas (with a special nod to guitarist Jamie Cook for wearing a three-piece white suit in a muddy field on a rainy night in England), shows of this scale are second-nature for a band like the Arctic Monkeys and, with Alex Turner at the forefront, the audience remain firmly in the palm of his hand for the entirety of the set. Opening with the instantly enticing riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ tonight’s set, which is half composed of songs from their latest album, ‘AM’, is a testament to the strength of a band that’s barely unrecognizable from the four scruffy teenage boys from Sheffield who were signed in a record label bidding frenzy ten years ago. Not many other bands would pick to start a set with a slow, snarling prowl of a song when there’s the option of one of their upbeat floorfillers, but regardless the crowd are enthralled from the first note to the last. They move quickly through ‘Snap Out of It’ and ‘Arabella’ before the giddy upbeat rush of ‘Brianstorm’ and ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, with the dark snarl of ‘Crying Lightning’ and their most famous ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ forming set highlights.
The band’s energy only seems to lag slightly during ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ but it’s a minor moment in the strong 90-minute set. Sure, they’re low on crowd-interaction throughout – Alex Turner only occasionally gracing the crowd with a mumbled “Finsbury Park” or a ‘How you doing, Finsbury?’ – but one has to argue that a band of this magnitude are able to let their music speak for themselves. Turner, barely moving from his microphone, but still having a stage ‘swagger’, as it were, imposed by his occasional hip shakes and a pocket comb to sweep back that new slicked-back hairstyle, is completely at home on stage and the band’s chemistry and seamless song transitions means the whole set goes from A to B with zero fuss or interruption. Are they just going through the motions after all these years? Perhaps, but their performance is strong, and either way, the crowd couldn’t care less.
They close with the crowd-pleasing ballad ‘505’, before an encore that sees Alex Turner, who enters the stage nonchalantly smoking a cigarette, and Miles Kane, who performed a support slow earlier in the evening alongside Royal Blood and Tame Impala, perform an acoustic duet of The Last Shadow Puppets’ ‘Standing Next To Me’ – a moment of paired-back calm in an otherwise explosion of a set. Their following encore songs, consisting of ‘One for the Road’, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ and ‘R U Mine?’ bring the show to a triumphant close. They’ve come a long way from the post-Libertines indie drawl of nightclubs and taxi ranks that made them famous but, eight years after their debut album became the fastest selling album in British history, it was a wonderful performance from a band at the peak of their fame.
Review by Rachel Michaella Finn |