“I just can’t bring myself to write about the mountains yet,” Alex Turner said back in 2013, following the release of the planet-ruling ‘AM‘. “I’m still banging on about the same shit I was in the beginning.” How things have changed, eh?
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In May, the lads blasted off to ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino‘ – far beyond the aforementioned mountains’ highest peaks – resulting in an LP that’s bursting at the seams with sci-fi imagery and lush, cinematic instrumentation. The ambitious new material saw Turner swap spillin’ drinks on his settee after a night on the pull for mixing Martinis in his lavish lunar gaff. Tonight, they’re back where it all started. Yep, our Steel City space monkeys have finally returned to Sheffield for their first hometown show in almost five (!) years. Buckle up, baby – it’s gonna be a big ‘un.
Arriving onstage at FlyDSA Arena – a mere few miles from the Boardwalk and The Grapes boozer, which played host to the band’s legendary early shows – the Arctics are met with nothing short of a hero’s welcome. “I ‘ant sin you in aaages!” a suited-up Turner tells the crowd, following the swirling climax of set-opener ‘Four Out Of Five’. The broad Yorkshire greeting makes way for a thunderous rendition of ‘Brianstorm’ – complete with down-tempo breaks and a drum solo from Matt Helders – before the whole arena bounces to ‘AM’ single ‘Snap Out Of It’.
But snap out we shall not. Transporting us back to the desert days of 2009, the euphoric ‘Crying Lightning’ kicks off a trio of classic tracks. A riff sing-along, obligatory chants of “YORRRKSHIRE”, and the lobbing of 11-quid superpints punctuate the straight-up indie cut ‘Teddy Picker’. And just like that, it’s as if the Monkeys never went away. Reigning things in with ‘505’, Turner pulls away from his piano to grasp his throat, mimicking the line, “I’d probably still adore you with your hands around my neck“.
With a newfound flare of showmanship born from the ‘TBHC’ era, it’s at this point Turner begins to fully embrace his latest incarnation. Exploring every inch of the monochrome-striped floor, the frontman fist pumps, shreds on keys, and playfully sips from his drink as an instrumental jam segues into title track ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. While searching for a former lover during ‘Cornerstone’, a hopeless romantic Alex stares deep into a ’70s camera as he handpicks lyrics to act out. On ‘One Point Perspective’, the now-iconic “I lost my train of thought” moment is so OTT, you wonder if the singer will ever return from his confused state.
Thankfully, he comes around. And as the evening goes on, the band continue to dig out material from each chapter of their story so far. ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ – a tale of the teenage Monkeys getting into scrapes with bouncers in this very city – plays host to one of tonight’s rowdiest moments, while the R&B-tinged ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’ sounds slicker than ever. Later, the brilliantly-titled ballad ‘The Ultracheese’ transforms the sterile arena into an outer-space, smokey jazz bar; a light-up, hexagonal stage prop is lowered each time a ‘Tranquility Base…’ cut is aired.
With AM’s well-rounded setlist at its strongest, it’s easy to forget that some of their biggest ’00s bangers haven’t met the cut this time around. But for Sheffield, Turner – of course – has something special up his suit jacket sleeve. Performing solo at his piano, he delivers a lounge-y version of 2007’s ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’, which makes its first live appearance since 2014.
Flicking the switch back to Rock God mode at the end of the main set, Alex calls on fans to “get down!” to ‘Arabella’, after writhing around on his knees to the sinister chorus of ‘Pretty Visitors’. Putting Jamie Cook’s face in serious danger, the frontman unleashes some impressive high kicks as he darts across the stage. “Wrap yer ‘ead around that!” Turner says of the track’s line: “It’s an exploration, she’s made of outer space“.
Remaining in the night sky, the shimmering ‘Star Treatment’ opens the encore. Drawing the evening to a high-octane finale, heavyweight hits ‘…Dancefloor’ and ‘R U Mine?’ close the show. The latter track’s lyrics are stretched out beyond recognition before Turner rips into a final, mosh-inducing riff.
Though some weren’t convinced by their left-field dive into deep space, the band return to Sheffield as modern-day masters of reinvention – truly at the top of their game as a live act. “We’re Arctic Monkeys from High Green and we love yer very much,” Turner declares, as he and the gang are welcomed home with lager-drenched open arms.
Arctic Monkeys’ setlist was:
Four Out of Five
Snap Out of It
(“The Jam of Boston” transition)
Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino
From the Ritz to the Rubble
Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
Fluorescent Adolescent (Piano version)
One Point Perspective
Do Me a Favour
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
Do I Wanna Know?
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
R U Mine?