Arctic Monkeys @ TSB Arena, Wellington 3rd May 2014
Almost a decade has passed since Sheffield’s favourite sons the Arctic Monkeys unleashed their brash debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, sending the NME’s hype machine into overdrive. To this day it remains the fastest selling British album of all time, spawning two number one singles and earning frontman Alex Turner favourable comparisons with Morrissey for his wry observations on working class British life. Not bad for a group of unassuming teens from High Green.
Since their confident follow-up, 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare – which features more of the same angular riffs and crunching percussion as its predecessor – the band have expanded their musical horizons and decamped to the United States to work with Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme on Humbug (2009), before going back to basics on 2011’s Suck It And See. But last year’s masterful AM is undoubtedly the Arctic Monkeys’ finest work to date, a glam-influenced, late night record which showcases Turner’s new-found maturity as songwriter.
Turner arrives on stage at the TSB Arena to roars of approval, these days looking like the archetypal rock star in a smart jacket and skinny jeans and his hair slicked back like a Teddy Boy. The band then launch into ‘One For The Road’ from AM and the power-pop hooks and catchy backing vocals from bassist Nick O’Malley and drummer Matt Helders soon has the boisterous Wellington crowd bouncing. This is followed by two other cuts from their latest record, ‘Snap Out Of It’ and a thrilling rendition of ‘Arabella’, which includes a snippet from Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ in a nod to their hard rock influences.
“It’s good to be back in this part of the world,” mutters Turner, and judging by the raucous crowd, Wellington is pleased to see him, too.
Other highlights from a set-list that mines their surprisingly deep back catalogue include the ear-splitting ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ and highly-charged interpretations of fan favourites ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and ‘Brianstorm’. But one of the most affecting moments of the night was the stripped down arrangements of melancholic ballad ‘No 1 Party Anthem’, with Turner effortlessly assuming the guise of a sardonic crooner as he strummed an acoustic guitar and the audience waved their mobile phones in unison. ‘Knee Socks’ is another strong moment on the night, its irresistible groove and funky bassline threatening to take the roof off the TSB Arena.
The band close the set with an encore comprising three more tracks from AM, an underwhelming reading of ‘Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High’, dreamy album closer ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ and hit single ‘R U Mine?’ which sees guitarist Jamie Cook contributing sturdy riffs that Jimmy Page would be proud to call his own. On tonight’s evidence, the Arctic Monkeys’ transformation from spiky teenagers to world class showmen is complete.