Roundhouse, London, Monday, September 9
Standing tall onstage at the Roundhouse, Alex Turner pauses during second track ‘Brianstorm’, clasps his hand to his ear and bellows: “We are Arctic Monkeys from High Green, Sheffield.” The roar of approval duly hits the 27-year-old’s palm, boosting the ever-growing confidence inside the head that’s home to 2013’s most famous quiff.
The frontman has every right to feel confident tonight. His band’s new album ‘AM’ was released this morning and will go on to sell over 100,000 copies in two days. From the record’s three singles it’s ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ (like the album and their Glastonbury show) that opens the set, with those thudding drum claps and stoner rock riffs sounding more eerie and atmospheric than on record. The other two – ‘R U Mine?’ and the G-funk-via-Yorkshire groove of ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ – follow later in the night. The latter finds Turner out a little as he struggles to master the rapid pace and delivery of it, but the aggression of the former compliments heavier older material like ‘Crying Lightning’. The audience know most of the words from ‘AM’ already, and provide the pitch-perfect backing vocals on ‘Arabella’ and ‘One For The Road’. Should drummer Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley ever get croaky there are plenty of people able to do the business.
Turner’s transformation from the scuzzy Sheffield kid who wrote ‘Dancing Shoes’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ (both played nonchalantly tonight, indie anthems that they now are) into a dapper, crooning lothario continues apace. He has a go at roaming the stage with no guitar during ‘Pretty Visitors’, which feels tongue-in-cheek and adds to the man’s charm. With his shades on he looks like Richard Hawley’s bastard son, and the way he stalks about and swirls his arm up in the air during ‘Fireside’ is pure Nick Cave. He’s working on his patter, too, in that new bingo-caller accent of his. “So many songs about bricks,” he jokes after ‘Brick By Brick’ and ‘Old Yellow Bricks’. Later he targets crowd members waving their arms and tells them, “Don’t forget your hips; I can’t see ’em, but I can feel ’em,” like he’s flirting with BBC Breakfast presenter Susanna Reid all over again.
Everything for Arctic Monkeys is in place: the frontman’s on fire, the new songs are modern rock masterpieces and the old songs are classics. The only question now is: after conquering Glastonbury and recording the album of the year, where next?