Who the fuck, as they once asked themselves, are Arctic Monkeys? Tonight sees the start of one of the year's most anticipated tours when Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O'Malley and Matt Helders take the stage at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena. But who exactly are those four men these days?
Four months on from their triumphant headline set at Glastonbury, a few things have changed. When they wowed Worthy Farm, they played just three songs from their as-yet-unreleased fifth album 'AM'. Now that fans have had a couple of months to get acquianted with the critically-lauded record, they're almost certain to dip deeper into it. The three they gave UK debuts to in Pilton were set opener 'Do I Wanna Know?' and then the double-punch of 'R U Mine?' and 'Mad Sounds'.
When they returned for the iTunes festival at the beginning of September they'd added loads more, including an extended G-funk jam that opened 'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?' and the sleazy swagger of 'One For The Road'. They'd even dropped some of the old favourites like 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco' in order to focus heavily on material from the new album and 'Favourite Worst Nightmare'. There was still room in the centre of the set to accomodate 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor', one of the Monkeys' rare 'must play' classics. You get the sense that they're happy to rummage in their back catalogue and cherry-pick and choose as they please.
NME New Music Editor Matt Wilkinson, who was invited inside the Monkeys' rehearsal studios earlier this summer, says: "When I spoke to the band at Glastonbury Alex said he was itching to get on with playing the new album live, and these gigs (which had just been announced) were undoubtedly what he was talking about. They're probably the culmination of the Monkeys' year to him and the others in the band."
"They're on a roll at the moment – AM is a gem of a record – and a lot of the time when a band finds themselves in that position, this is the kind of tour that makes things really special and pushes them onto the next stage. Despite everything that's happened to them, I think the Monkeys are still after that - they're still hungry for more. Don't get me wrong though, they've still got to have their wits about them to really pull it off and make these gigs legendary. But from what I can see, everything's in place for that to happen."
There's also rumours that Alex will be putting down his guitar a lot more on this tour so that he can get out front, pull some shapes and channel his inner Nick Cave. Does that mean he'll swap his Glastonbury Elvis accent for an Aussie twang? Probably not, but after Foals' Yannis Philippakis became the latest person to poke fun at Turner's take on the King's voice, while beating Arctic Monkeys to Q's 'Best Live Band' award, this is the Sheffield band's chance to reclaim the throne. Will they do it? Whatever happens, you'll want to watch.