“We’re not ignoring you Finland,” drawls Alex Turner halfway through Arctic Monkeys’ headline set at Flow Festival in Helsinki. It’s their first time playing in the country, but if you’re expecting the lead singer to invoke any sign of sentimentality live on stage, well, it just ain’t going to happen.
For those that have followed the lads from the Boardwalk to here, on the edge of the Baltic Sea, this should come as no surprise. In an era of oversharing on social media, political grandstanding and boring feuds, this lot operate in their own space. Elusive down to their very core, they slither and slide away from prying questions to add a thoroughly mysterious edge to their band. This tour, however, is feeding the myth even more but only because this tour is so profoundly silly and disarming. As a result, it’s their best yet.
2013’s ‘AM’ demanded a different side of the band. As they conquered the globe, the propelling force behind it all was the emergence of Alex Turner, The Rockstar – but ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino‘ required something else from both band and audience; a sense of humour.
Intentional or not – but ‘TBH+C’ definitely feels like an in-joke that ran a little too long. There’s silly lines about the leader of the free world looking like a ‘80s wrestler, Turner crooning about dancing in his underpants and one, romantic ode to the big cheese in the sky. Hell, there’s even a song called ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’.
The ensuing tour has matched that carnivalesque attitude. We’ve seen wonderful covers, shocking new hair styles and memes born in right in front of our very eyes. Flow Festival was no different. Slinking onstage to a rousing, hip-shaking rendition of ‘Four Out Of Five’ and metaphor-laden ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair’, Turner works the crowd like a comedian who knows they’ve got a killer joke hidden up their sleeve.
The resurgence and revitalisation of ‘Humbug’ material on this tour are this jester’s punchline. The 2009 album was met with confusion and backlash at the time, but the expansion of the band’s touring team means these songs are sounding meatier and moodier than before. ‘Cornerstone’ has been fleshed out to resemble the soppy anthem we all hoped it’d be, while ‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Pretty Visitors’ offer some of the set’s most exhilarating moments. After the latter, Turner scans the band for their reaction with a cheeky grin on his face; like the class clown waiting for the reaction to his joke.
The wit of early material like ‘View From The Afternoon’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ still lingers, even if the patchy performance threatens to derail the set slightly. Meanwhile, new songs like the self-pitying ‘Star Treatment’ and the downright ridiculous ‘One Point Perspective’ are laced with dark humour and met with by a welcome, intriguing mindset by the Finnish crowd.
A one-two punch of ‘One For The Road’ and ‘R U Mine?’ round out the night, with Turner finally introducing himself and the band as “The Arctic Monkeys from High Green, Sheffield,” just as the slink off stage. They always get the last laugh, don’t they?