Arctic Monkeys (UK)

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

The kids have grown up. Back in 2006 it was the Palace. Future tours saw Festival Hall, then the Palais, the new Palace, and finally Festival Hall again. This time though, it was Rod Laver Arena that played host to 10,000 crazy Melburnians going nuts for Alex Turner and Co.

Like a myriad of other reviews of the lads from Sheffield in the past 12 months, it’s pertinent to mention the words ‘swagger’, ‘hips’, ‘greased hair’ and ‘pelvis’. Now that those are out of the way, we can talk about the rest of the show with the recent ubiquity already taken care of.

2013’s AM was – and is – a hugely successful album for the constantly evolving 4 piece, possessing a groove that ebbs and flows through the LP’s 12 tracks. What Australians had yet to see for themselves though was whether these songs would find their way into a set already boasting enough songs to have headlined Glastonbury twice.

In  reality though, it was to be up to the songs from the previous 4 Monkey‘s studio albums to force their way into a set dominated by the current album.

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Amid a wall of smoke, Drummer Matt Helders, Bassist Nick O’Malley and Guitarist Jamie Cook took to the stage, with frontman and main attraction Alex Turner emerging from the mist to fire up AM’s established opener Do I Wanna Know?. What’s immediately obvious on this wet Friday night in Melbourne is that the local crowd are up for this in every way possible. The floor – a heaving mass of bodies – gets their pogo going nicely during Snap Out of  It , and when the fuzz driven riffs of Arabella  kick in all hell breaks lose.

It’s not just the floor area that carries this vibe: In what is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence at Rod Laver Arena, the bulk of the crowd remain on their feet throughout the 2 hour long set. There is hope.

It’s not until the 4th song of the night, led by the thunderous stick work of Helders, that we’re taken back to a time before AM. 2007’s Brianstorm is old Monkeys performed by new Monkeys, and it shines as one of the clear highlights of the night.

What’s clear, even so early on into the set, is that the shy, ragged and almost nervous band who thrilled small crowds at St Kilda’s Palace Complex (RIP) in 2006 is no more. Seasoned international superstars have taken their place, and along with it a slickness that never sits completely comfortably with those present who’ve seen all their incarnations over the years.

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Harking back to their debut album, Dancing Shoes provides a return to the simple stripped back guitar lines with which the Arctic Monkeys made their name, but it was Humbug‘s lead single Crying Lightning, slotting so comfortably into the middle of the set, that signalled the first big change in style this band had made. Driving bass, clear guitar lines that hide in the background until needed, and a lyric that deviated from the familiar tales of early 20s nights out in England’s north.

Falsetto backing vocals give way to the familiar muted riff of Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, and we’re back to 2013 again with one of the album’s most popular tunes. It translates from album to stage brilliantly, with O’Malley and Helders playing their part delivering the crucial backing vocal lines to perfection. Again… slick.

A low key Fireside fills the next 4 minutes, before the song that started it all gets Rod Laver Arena going again. I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor is a touch slower than in the past (or was it too fast back then?), but as the 10, 000 strong crowd shout the lines right back at Alex Turner it’s clear that this song has survived the past 9 years with its youthful dignity intact.

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

A sparkling No. 1 Party Anthem

If there’s a criticism of tonight’s show, it’s through the next run of 4 songs – She’s Thunderstorms, No. 1 Party Anthem, Corner Stone and Knee Socks. All fantastic songs in their own right but bunched together, all meander along at a similar mid tempo. It’s not without highlights though – No. 1 Party Anthem sees the arena bathed in disco ball reflections that sit beautifully alongside Turner’s lyrics, and the guitar work from Turner and Cook during Knee Socks is superb.

Next though, it’s back to Favourite Worst Nightmare, with the main set’s penultimate tune Fluorescent Adolescent. It’s another nod to the simple clean guitar stabs that got this band off and running. From the same album, the  epic build of 505 is the perfect way to finish the set. “A 45 minute drive through my imagination” indeed.

With the walk-off-and-walk-back-on such a permanent fixture of virtually every gig nowadays, there’s not the storming, stomping chanting you’d expect in years past. Everyone knows what’s coming, and it does detract from the spontaneity of the live concert experience. The world could really do with a few bands who just plough on and don’t bother with the phoney ‘Thank You, Good night“s.  Maybe one day.

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Return though they do, with Turner rhetorically asking ‘shall we play you a couple more?’, before the 3 part harmonies of One For The Road kick off the 3 song encore. Again it’s mid tempo but redemption comes in the form of the even more laid back AM album closer I Wanna Be Yours. With the arena lit up by the 21st century equivalent of cigarette lighters – smartphone lights – the song is taken to another level. It looks amazing, sounds amazing, and what’s more, it all happened without Bono telling anyone to get their phones out to end poverty in Africa.

Arctic Monkeys @ Rod Laver Arena (9th May 2014)

Light Up A Stadium: I Wanna Be Yours

The humming feedback of R U Mine? launches the final song of the night, manic drumming, lead guitar licks, and an extended coda caused by a malfunctioning bass guitar that sees Turner drag out the ending. This allows O’Malley to replace one chunk of stringed wood with another. Seamless.

The Melbourne instalment of the AM tour is a resounding success, though strangely, after thinking back in 2006 that the Arctic Monkeys just needed to tighten up a little bit to really push on, the current version of the Monkeys seems to cry out for the mayhem, looseness and rougher edges of the past. The evolution and growth though of their sound is what sees the four lads from High Green, Yorkshire still surviving and thriving today, rather than sitting under grey northern skies, sipping warm beer and wondering what might have been if they’d only stepped out of their comfort zone.

Step out of it they have, perhaps even having left that comfort zone back in Room 505 – around the end of Favourite Worst Nightmare.



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