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November 1, 2011 / rocksandgravel

Review: Arctic Monkeys at the O2

Original format on soon to be revamped No Fun, link here.

Whatever People Say I Am… which Alex Turner recently referred to as ‘songs about the chip shop’ was the soundtrack of my first year of uni, back when life for me was as simple as beer, boys and questionable dance moves. I went to see them that year at the BIC, and the predominant memory through the cheap vodka haze was of being shoved around a lot as the laddish crowd forgot all sense of spatial awareness and, to put it simply, lost their shit. I left bruised, dishevelled and covered in drink, and found my friend afterwards in the foyer clutching a first aid report. It was exciting though.

In the years following our first encounter I’ve lost thousands of pounds in student debt and the Monkeys have gained thousands in royalties but it’s clear that their mix of on stage swagger and boys next door shyness still remains. Ever the proud provincial lads, tonight they enter the London leg of their Suck It And See tour to their hometown’s adopted anthem ‘You Sexy Thing’. Turner, sporting a gelled teddy boy quiff and leather jacket, smirking as he makes pointing dancing moves at his expectant crowd ‘Millenium Dome!’ he grins wryly as he puts on his guitar.

The group look out on a crowd predominantly formed of a new generation of 20 year olds, all starting back in throws of excitement and tension akin to expectant football fans on derby day. The thumping drum intro to Teddy Picker comes as a big relief as now the inebriated onlookers can finally get stuck in.

The lighting changes to suit the mood of each song, turning a dusky shade of pink for Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, a song with a more persistant bassline and twinklier psychedelic feel than its predecessors; then drops to a deep red for Black Treacle, which involves a call and response between Turner and Helders, and at which zip up tops around me are embraced in man hugs. As another bloke appears from nowhere insisting I sing to his friend down a phone whilst a plastic cup hits me on the head, showering me with beer I realise that some things never change.

Turner removes his jacket to wolf whistles and announces ‘Let’s shift gear’ as he launches us right into the helm of the unmistakeable cranky riff for View For The Afternoon, followed by I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor, causing a rapturous singalong and fitful movements among the crowd as we bounce of each other in the manner of several guitar less Wilko Johnsons. ‘Fuckin pack it in down there’ he sighs, holding his stare at some over excited offenders in the front section disapprovingly ‘there’s to be no scrappin ere, ok’.

To calm us down we’re back to the melodic whirls of Suck It And See which gets us so chilled that people putting their arms around each other, looking as if they’re on the verge of happy tears. Perhaps wary that it’s all getting a bit too quiet Turner starts holding intermittent cheering competitions between each side of the room and awarding the loudest side each time with a score of ‘1-0’ and then 1-1’.

A slowed down, semi acoustic rendition of Mardy Bum, saves him a breath or two before Miles Kane appears. He takes to the stage, thumbs up and clad in a red jacket, ‘straight from Butlins’ and picks up the fender for their swan song of tonight; the dark, melodic and angst ridden ‘505’.

As they depart the stage in a whir of extended feedback for the last time this evening, blowing air kisses one minute and giving shy waves the next, there’s still that mixture of cockiness and lads who begged us not to believe the hype. You sense that they’ve probably returned back stage and just uttered with a shrug ‘that was alright, wasn’t it?’

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