Arctic Monkeys @ Sheffield Arena
Just over fifteen years ago, in the upstairs room of a backstreet Irish boozer on Trippet Lane, four spotty teenagers nervously stepped onstage to play a selection of covers and self-penned songs practised during the summer in their lead singer’s garage. Roughly 30-40 people were actually in attendance on the night, but over the years many more Sheffielders would claim to have borne witness to a momentous occasion in the city’s musical history: the Arctic Monkeys’ first live performance.
A whirlwind of Brit Awards, Grammies, Mercury Prize nominations, Glasto headline slots, multi-platinum selling records, and more than a few suspect haircuts later, the lads from High Green can safely claim to be one of the biggest bands in the world. And despite an ongoing and natural diversion away from their early influences – a circumstantial shift from late-night frivolities on Division Street to building luxury hotels on the moon – there is still a palatable sense of local pride on the opening night of their stint at Sheffield’s FLY DSA Arena. From the throng below intermittent chants of “Yorkshire! Yorkshire!” add nicely to the fevered atmosphere of a grand homecoming.
“We ‘ant see you lot for while,” a besuited, buzzcutted Turner remarks to the gathered masses once the initial furore dies down. The stage is set up to reflect the Kubrick-esque surroundings of his imagined ‘prophetic esplanade’, while a hexagonal outline of the Tranqulity Base Hotel & Casino is lowered each time a song from their critically-lauded sixth album is introduced.
It descends for the first track of the night, a banker from the new record in Four out of Five, beginning proceedings in funky, groove-laden fashion as fans loosen up and check in for a memorable evening. The crowd have barely finished bellowing back the final line of the opener when they are upended and thrown headfirst into the roaring riffs of 2007’s Brianstorm, next switching into the preposterously slick rock and roll ballad ‘Arabella’. Any concerns from some that the evening would largely involve strolling leisurely through the corridors of Turner’s space-age establishment are quickly assuaged.
Instead, a well-balanced journey through the band’s development is what follows. Over the course of the set homage is paid to the spiky indie rock of the early days (I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, Dancing Shoes); the brash, angst-ridden melodies of their sophomore effort (505, Fluorescent Adolescent); the Homme-inspired Humbug collection (Crying Lightning, Pretty Visitors); some of the more riotous elements of the metaphor-laden Suck it and See (Library Pictures, Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair); and their simple but effective consummation as fully-fledged rockstars with AM (Snap Out of It, Do I Wanna Know, Knee Socks).
In his own inimitable style – it’s cool dad dancing, basically – Turner shakes and struts around the stage, clearly indulging himself the most in tracks from Tranquility Base, especially when he gets the chance to tickle the ivories in reflective fashion for Star Treatment during the encore. Like him or loathe him, it cannot be denied that he has grown into an incredible performer. The final goodbyes ensure pandemonium through spirited airings of View from the Afternoon and entirely flawless rock anthem R U Mine?. The din eventually subsides and the fully satiated hometown crowd are given a parting line to take into the pouring rain outside…
“We are the Arctic Monkeys from High Green, baby, and we love you very much.”