Call it revived British invasion- all the same the Arctic Monkeys live set at the Hordern this January was less a pyrotechnic rehearsed stage performance than a Cavern Club rock show. Fans of the Sheffield foursome packed into the dark snug venue to be immersed in smart and articulate Brit rock. The band has abandoned its mod aesthetic, which could be attributed to their initial success, for a more spunky rock look- with Alex Turner and his band mate guitarist James Cook decked out in Grease-inspired leather gear and slick haircuts. The Monkeys really took advantage of the live show to bring out the most from their instruments and deliver more than a rendition of their studio-recorded tracks.
The Arctic Monkeys have come a long way from their first Australian performances in 2006- now cool and collected, and very comfortable in live settings. “We love coming down under! The monkeys love coming down under!” Alex Turner exclaims in between tracks- constantly referring to the crowd as Sydders! Apart from the predictable banter: “Are you having a good time tonight, Sydders?” and sense of effortlessness on stage – (Fair enough, the band only had to stand on stage to receive unending applause) – the Monkeys kept their audience enthusiastic and satisfied.
Their list of tracks came to a round number of 21 and the set list pleased fans with a mélange of old and new. It is primarily the Suck It and See tour but the Arctic Monkeys weren’t afraid to return to their much-loved and played-to-death old songs. Early tracks were greeted with roars of applause- including hat trick Brianstorm, The View from the Afternoon and I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. The band has previously admitted that they are not quite the ‘sing-a-long’ band but this did not deter the audience from singing along to EVERYTHING. Even, and especially, drummer Matt Helder’s song Brick By Brick on the 17th repetitive lyric ‘brick by brick’. Oh well, we’ll leave the words to Turner.
Some lyrics are nonsensical, some are witty – but whatever strings of playful imagery or alliterative rhyme the audience was chanting it all right back. The vaguely unpopular third album Humbug actually gave the band some great live material- maybe because they aren’t yet sick-to-death of performing it, or are revel in its fiery lyrics and heavy tunes. Pretty Visitors stood out for me-it is a dark, dynamic and lyrical song and was amplified in a live performance. The show had great atmospheric lighting, matching the energy of the crowd and performers. The Monkeys lingered after each track, replacing breaks with drawn-out endings, intermittent pauses and false starts.
Ending the main set with When The Sun Goes Down showcased how the band works well together- with Cook and Turner’s suspenseful guitar strumming in sync with a deliberative bass line and Helder’s strong and vigorous drumming, which holds the band together. Turner is definitely the ringmaster but all are talented musicians, especially showcased during the Library Pictures solo.
The Arctic Monkeys blend lovable youthful spirit and dark brooding attitude. They have harnessed the sensitivity of ‘70s romantic ballads, the noisy submerged sound of ‘90s grunge and utter control over their instruments to create a musical style and execution that is all but their own. In a live show they ensure a smooth, flowing set with all the energy required to distract a crowd from their sweaty, unpleasant surroundings.