Live at the O2: Arctic Monkeys

 On Saturday, watching Arsenal storm the Bridge (and going so mad, Tom cat was giving me evils half an hour later) wasn’t the only thing I did. As I mentioned yesterday, I had spent the week in bed with a chest infection. However, Jo had bought tickets for the Arctic Monkeys gig at the O2 on Saturday some time ago and I wasn’t going to miss out on that. Luckily for me, the antibiotics- this post is brought to you in association with Amoxicillin- had by and large worked their magic and so we headed off to the O2 with me feeling… not exactly 100%, but certainly happy in the knowledge that we’d be looking down on the inevitable mayhem whilst safe in our seats.

We met up with Jo’s mates Jen and Chris at the O2 and went for a Wagamama. To me, this is classic nourishment. I remember once going there with James, Irish Mike and Chris Noble after a day out on the beers (I think Arsenal had lost at home to Newcastle) and feeling my body begin to rebuild itself with each mouthful. So, it was perhaps the perfect food for me on Saturday. James then arrived with his girlfriend Lizzie- the mad bastards had standing tickets- and we went for a quiet pint in the Union Square.

Time flew by and soon it was time to take our respective places. We got to our seats just in time to catch the end of the Vaccines set. By the time I came back from a quick toilet trip, I Believe In Miracles was filling the air and the Arctics were on their way. I will admit that I felt slightly sceptical about the Monkeys on Saturday night as their latest album, Suck It And See, in my opinion flat out sucked. However, any worries I had about them, Alex Turner rocking a bit of a Teddy Boy quiff (just call him Elvis), were quickly dispelled by opening track- probably my favourite on that new album, Don’t Sit Down Cause I Moved Your Chair. Classic Turner wordplay, savage riffs, what more could you want? The entire arena was on its feet almost immediately.

Teddy Picker, from 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare had everyone singing along, right down to its classic last line “… who’d want to be men of the people, when there’s people like you?” Crying Lightning was dispatched with authority before a couple of tracks from the new album were aired- The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, which I’m still not loving and then  Black Treacle which, as Jo said, is just boring. The Arctics boring? Sad but, in this case, true.

The thunderous, Matt Helders drums of Brianstorm, with its ever so arch lyrics, picked things right back up- for me anyway. I’m not sure anyone on the floor knew or cared about my misgivings over the new album. View from The Afternoon and then I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, predictably, nearing tore the roof off the Millennium Dome, as Turner kept calling it. The Sheffield quartet then took the opportunity to sneak in a new song, Evil Twin which sounded alright. And then we were back to the present for the Helders sung Brick By Brick. not quite as annoying as it is on record.

For me (and James), the next song was the song of the night. Listening to it again this morning- the song, not the gig- I can’t understand how Dance Little Liar fails to provoke anything more than the merest shrug from the Monkeys devotees; it’s got everything, great lyrics, vocals, drums and a brilliant tune. You’d have thought Alex Turner had just let one out on stage, such was the level of disinterest. Oh, that’s right, it’s not a song you can jump and down and start, to quote Joe Strummer, “a bunch of mad fisticuffs” to. Indeed, Alex had to reprimand parts of the crowd he spotted “scrapping”. But not after that song.

The more aggressive members of the audience (and there were some truly shredded people there) would have loved the run of tracks that closed the main set. As This House Is A Circus led onto a cracking Still Take You Home (five years later, I now know the words- yayy!) , led onto the dirgey in a good way Pretty Visitors and then She’s Thunderstorms. I like that last one, but I do think it’s a bit of a disappointment after a cracking intro. It goes all soft. Why? Anyway, I’ve got no such doubts over the brilliant Fluorescent Adolescent, or Do Me A Favour or even When The Sun Goes Down. No siree Bob, the O2 was in full cry by the time the main set was done.

Suck It And See was the first track of the encore, before a stripped down, slowed down version of Mardy Bum that everyone sang along to anyway. Alex then paused to pay due respect to Sir Jimmy Saville , who had died earlier that day before the O2, inexplicably to me, gave the best reception of the night to Miles Kane as he walked onstage. If the recpetion was in anticipation of what was to follow then I can forgive everyone who was there, because closing track 505 was very, very close to being my favourite track of the night.

I close this review with a couple of observations. One is that, despite the universal acclaim that (rightly) greeted the Arctics first album, it’s the songs from the second and third album that truly get me in the heart. I haven’t listened to Favourite Worst Nightmare for a while now, but the songs off that album are songs that speak to me. I think the third album is an underrated masterpiece. Presumably people don’t like the Josh Homme direction, but it led them to some petty cool places and choices in my view. My final observation is this, that the Arctics are still such a thrilling live proposition, even in the face of a pretty dull album (an album admittedly left half alone for this gig), speaks to the depth and quality of Alex Turner’s songwriting. Just thinking of the songs left out attests to this. Not to mention the fact that his supporting cast certainly know what to do with their instruments.

Loved it. Totally.

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