The third and final day of Primavera Sound is all about one band. In every nook, cranny and corner of Parc Del Forum, there’s an Arctic Monkeys tee lurking; as you walk around the site, people are belting out tracks from every album of their eclectic back catalogue. Two full hours before the band are even on stage, the crowd is already a thousand strong. By the time they saunter on just before midnight, the entire arena is full.
Before all that, though, it’s up to Schmaltzcore crooner Rex Orange County to stir the sleepy Saturday crowd. His sacharrine collab-cover of Randy Newman’s ‘You Got A Friend In Me’ sadly doesn’t get an airing, but there’s plenty of heart-on-sleeve piano-pop ditties for the assembled throng. Next door, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are an altogether more bolshy prospect. Fittingly, they’re on the actual coast, overlooking both the Mediterranean Sea and a crowd so big they can barely fit in front of the stage. Live, the Melbourne bunch really come into their own – what, on-record, seems like breezy, polished beach-pop gets delightfully scuzzed up when they wheel it out live, with the group’s motorik rhythm section driving things forward, and prompting one red-as-a-lobster punter to leap atop his mate’s shoulders and furiously dab to summer banger ‘Mainland’.
The endearingly awkward Lorde later takes to the Seat stage, her dark and gloomy pop perfectly befitting the night time. As she bounds about the stage, giving shoutouts to “the ocean” and gushing about how happy she is to be in Barcelona, she’s quickly proving the be the big-time pop star she always hinted at becoming. It’s not all moody pop and gangly dance moves though – ‘Liability’ gets a stunning airing, prompting tears in all corners, while turbo-belter ‘Green Light’ closes proceedings with one of the loudest singalongs of the entire weekend.
Then it’s time for the main event. Propped up by a huge, illuminated ‘MONKEYS’ sign and some golden curtains, Arctic Monkeys open the doors to ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. While opinion might have been split on Alex Turner and co.’s latest record – with many questioning just how the baroque, piano-led material would fare alongside their more riff-heavy past– it takes less than a minute for all fears to be laid to rest. Set opener and latest single ‘Four Out Of Five’ is a far chunkier affair live, with Matt Helders in particular taking the opportunity to really get some oomph behind those sparse drum arrangements. The kings of indie-rock reinvention waste no time in trawling through the back catalogue – ‘Four Out Of Five’ is swiftly followed by a rollicking one-two of the punkier ‘Brianstorm’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, as pints soar through the air, followed swiftly by pumping fists.
Elsewhere, the 20-song setlist leans heavily on both ‘AM’ and ‘Tranquility Base…’, solidifying Turner’s transition from spotty, sarcastic teenage rebel into the louche, hip-swinging balladeer on stage this evening. It’s a guise that suits him well, though that knowing humour still pops up on occasion. “What would Dolly do?” reads Turner’s skin-tight t-shirt, while his minimal stage banter exists almost solely in the form of sporadic purrs of “Prrrrrrrrimaverrrrraaaa”. Obviously, each one is greeted with adoring screams.
The likes of ‘One Point Perspective’, ‘She Looks Like Fun’ and the new album’s title-track are sung back at the stage with all the gusto of the older material, the latter’s bafflingly brilliant “Mark speaking!” line becoming an unlikely mantra that’s screamed around site for hours after Monkeys leave the stage. That older material also tends to lean into the groovier aspects of ‘Tranquility Base…’ – ‘Do Me A Favour’, ‘505’ and ‘Cornerstone’ are wheeled out, while the likes of ‘Mardy Bum’ and ‘Teddy Picker’ are not. The main set does, however, close with a fired-up run-through of ‘Pretty Visitors’, ‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, before the encore, confusingly, starts with the lounge-y ‘Batphone’. Perhaps the only misstep in an otherwise golden hour and a half set, it’s quickly patched up with ‘The View From The Afternoon’ and a crashing ‘R U Mine?’. A lot of pressure’s been put on Arctic Monkeys’ return to Primavera Sound, the Parc Del Forum stage being billed for weeks as something of a proving ground for their latest evolution – as they disappear off into the night, there’s no doubting that the ‘Tranquility Base…’ era is a golden one.
The night ends with a double-whammy of rap’s biggest hitters, with A$AP Rocky and Skepta both popping up during each other’s sets. Predictably, the likes of ‘Fuckin’ Problems’ and ‘Shutdown’ illicit the biggest response, with the last scraps of energy let loose in an impressively wide 3:30am moshpit to the latter. NME’s weekend finishes with The Blaze, a secretive French duo whose stunning, cinematic music videos have become a talking point for anyone with their ear to the ground. Following a huge billing at last month’s Coachella festival, their late-night appearance on the Ray Ban stage is somewhat more subdued, with the screens displaying those videos perhaps not big enough to really convey their story. Their lucid electronica dazzles regardless – the perfect, stunning end to a festival like no other.