While the band's appearance on Later With Jools Holland was being televised, The Arctic Monkeys were delighting their fans in the North East with a career-spanning 20-song set. There can be little doubt that the 2012/13 season has proved to be their best yet in a career which has been meteoric to say the least. They performed to a global audience at the Olympic opening ceremony, headlined at Glastonbury as well as becoming the most successful indie band in history by reaching number one with their first five albums. Their first show, supported by The Strypes, was performed to a rapturous sell-out audience.
On October 22nd, the floor of Metro Radio Arena was a sea of illuminated rectangles as the audience eagerly waited to capture their beloved band. Arriving on stage to thunderous applause Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O'Malley and Matt Helder launched into their current single, the achingly slow and sexy, "Do I Wanna Know?" to begin the show. They then tore into "Brainstorm", sending the already rowdy crowd wild. The four piece managed to maintain a level of hysteria throughout the whole of the night taking songs from all five of their albums.
Turner then focused his attention on the ladies, as he addressed the "Geordie lasses" and began playing "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", which shot them to stardom back in 2005. The single sparked the band's first blush of success in the mid-2000s, this coupled with a tsunami of home-grown hype made the Arctic Monkeys the biggest band in the U.K. Their first LP, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was an instant classic that mixed tough garage punk with rough and rich lyrics about life in a small town. Turner lovingly nicknamed it "chip-shop rock & roll" a style which he appears to have abandoned for their new shimmery and slightly more sophisticated record, AM. This new genre, however, has not deterred fans as the album, released by Domino Records, has been hailed by most critics as their best since 2007's Favourite Worst Nightmare.
So what is it about the band that has attracted such a loyal, and strong, following? Their ceaseless adaptability has maintained their meteoric career whilst the image of four likeable ruffians from Sheffield turned into rock stars is miraculous enough to turn even the biggest of cynics into a fan. Each album has seen the boys reinvent themselves; they're pioneers in the music industry and their futuristic outlook has put them at the forefront of trends continuously. AM has an intergalactic, slightly cosmic element that is absent in their previous work and I have no doubt that it will be heard in aspiring band's debut albums for the next five years. The addition of falsettos and a more rhythm-centric approach is also new and fits in well with the bands aging fan base that has followed them from teen days to adulthood. This sophistication is not only apparent in their sound but in their look too. Alex's rockabilly-inspired quiff was combed in-between each song causing the women in the audience to swoon at his onstage allure that was improved immensely by his mod attire.
Arctic Monkeys have become the first band on an independent label to score five consecutive No 1 albums. The chart record follows news that the Sheffield band's fifth album, AM, hit the top spot by selling 157,000 copies in its first week. Despite their recent move to LA Sheffield groupies shouldn't be disheartened as beneath the frantic electronic snare was "0114" the dialling code for Sheffield emblazoned on the drum-set. Every thud on that drum-set was hit as though it was the last. Sheffield's finest have the power to take the gig anywhere they want and Matt Helder's drums will force you there. As they closed the show Turner leered over the microphone and whispered "come here, I wanna ask you something" before breaking into "R U Mine" whilst glittering confetti showered their adoring fans.
Despite what critics have called 'the dumbing down of music' in recent years, due to the proliferation of repetitive pop hits, Turner's uncanny knack for clever, vivid lyrics prove our generation are still seeking solace from musicians. The magical realism to his lyrics has been the therapy for teens across the UK, fixing not only his fans heartache but also his own. As Turner acknowledges, many of the album's lyrics center on his breakup with his long term girlfriend Alexa Chung in 2010. He even described "'Do I Wanna Know?' as 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' with a jet pack on." Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner is, too many, the best songwriter of his generation and AM was hailed in some influential if moderately overexcited quarters as the finest record to be released in the past decade.
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