Arctic Monkeys @ Wembley Arena

18 November 2009

Despite their third album ‘Humbug’ taking a different musical direction and receiving reviews as mixed up as a cross dressing gremlin in a blender, the Arctic Monkeys have packed out their last night in the capital at London’s Wembley Arena.

The lights lose lustre, igniting a fast burning fuse to a powder keg of a mosh pit towards the front. Whilst dozens of inflated prophylactics bounce off heads on the arena floor, a giant red curtain looming on stage is lifted to reveal a fresh looking Alex Turner and crew in a mist of smoke. After a brief pause to soak in the roaring adoration from the ‘monkey mob’ before them, the opening number ‘Dance Little Liar’ is serenely delivered and gently reduces the high testosterone levels of the over eager teens surging forward. 

We’re next greeted with the cracking high voltage tune ‘Brainstorm’ as screens to the side of the stage are switched on to show various camera angles of the band in a way that’s not to dissimilar to a Jenna Jameson DVD (so I hear).  Driving the song forward, Matt Helders beats the drums with all the ferocity of a rhythmic Viking and as the tune comes to its towering finale, a scuffle breaks out meters from the stage and the front man feels the need to weigh in. “Pack it in” orders an agitated Alex, before turning to guitarist pal Jamie Cook and albeit, tongue in cheek, remarks “what a delightful audience”.

Following up, first-class renditions of ‘This House Is A Circus’ and ‘Take You Home’ are well received, but the cheers so far were buried by the sheer reaction to ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor’. With Wembley being shaken to its core, a smattering of ticker tape strips dislodge from the heavens above as a handful of fans take up topless breakdancing around the outskirts of the arena floor.

“Hello, are you in a good mood?”, quips Alex Turner as he finally addresses the twelve thousand before him. Not that we were being ignored in the first place as this is familiar ‘monkey etiquette’ at live shows, but it is somewhat surprising. The Sheffield lads had taken the time to make notes at recent Kylie and Beyonce concerts so that they could put on the caliber of performances expected of arena giants, and regrettably, it doesn’t show. Alex Turner is renowned for saying very little between songs and having all the movement of Heather Mills with a broken leg, but still, it’s the intensity of the songs that shines through like a bank of halogen. The addicted legions are taking hit after hit and beg mercifully for more during noticeably lengthy breaks between songs.

For a moment, the troubadour loses himself during ‘The View From The Afternoon’ and mistakenly sings the first verse twice, but it has no effect to the delivery of the song as Nick O’Malley compensates with a spine destroying bass line. A handful of brawls amongst the heaving masses start as quickly as they finish during the less infectious ‘Pretty Visitors’ and a moody ‘Do Me A Favour’, but it’s the instant classic ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ that incites a reaction louder than that of a bored eight year old flicking a lion’s testicles. The ticker tape cannon’s finally unload around the corners of Wembley as the Arctic Monkeys vacate the stage to ready up for their encore.

A magical ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ mashed together with ‘Mardi Bum’ makes for an exceptional choice to return to the stage with, and is a reminder of the Oasis style sing-a-longs which were a common place not so long ago. Alex Turner is now without instrument and claps in time whilst guiding the clique effortlessly as he tries to master his new lead singer persona. This is the strongest indication yet that he’s up for the challenge of making his lazy showmanship days a thing of the past, and it pays off causing the sweaty rabble to raise the roof with appreciation. “The meter's run out, I gotta get off” announces Turner to a disheartened audience and hurls the band into a laid back execution of ‘505’, a goodbye in itself.

So we wave ‘so long’ to the Arctic Monkeys as they leave with heads held high from a still buzzing arena. Tonight there was no cover of Nick Cave's ‘Red Right Hand’ (which is featured as a bonus track on the Japanese import of Humbug) and we weren’t dazzled with a show that had the energy levels of Hugh Heffner at Christmas. But what we did get was a performance that had all the rawness of an often imitated Cassius Clay breakfast and the privilege to witness undeniably catchy songs that bask in contemporary relevance.  Nice one boys.

By Neil Stone

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Send to my phone!Photographer: Sara Bowrey

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