“Hello everyone,” begins the small, dark figure onstage, looking wryly out from under his eyebrows. “This is our first gig for about a year, so you might have to bear with us.”
A pause, then ‘Da Frame 2R’ slashes across the crowd. Everyone goes mental. Ever ones to underplay things, the Arctic Monkeys are sidestepping a slavering worldwide army of fans by choosing to reveal flashes of the third instalment of their gospel in front of a mere 1,500 in the humble environs of New Zealand’s Wellington Town Hall. Then they start with the bonus track from the Japanese edition of their last album. The teases.
Ostensibly a warm-up for this weekend’s Big Day Out festival, tonight is less dry run than careering log-flume of thrills, thanks in the main to four new songs. ‘Dangerous Animals’ comes first – a riff-beast that’s kissing cousin to ‘Teddy Picker’ and which sees Turner and bassist Nick O’Malley shout/spell out the title as a chorus. ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ and ‘…Dancefloor’ follow, and then we get ‘Pretty Visitors’, a ‘Brianstorm’-heavy stomp punctuated by marching rhythms that finds Alex armed only with a mic. Most impressive of all, however, are the pair that come towards the end of the set. ‘Crying Lightning’ pairs a signature Turner hook with a more melodic, Shadow Puppets approach, while the organ-and-Les Paul-bedecked ‘Would You Like Me To Build You A Go-Kart?’ is received like an old friend bearing cake.
Hanging out with QOTSA kingpin Josh Homme has obviously rubbed off. The Monkeys sound heavier, more bruising and malicious than ever, rattling through ‘…Circus’, ‘Still Take You Home’, ‘The View From The Afternoon’, ‘Dancing Shoes’, ‘Brianstorm’ and ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ at terrifying pace. And there are a few surprises up their sleeves: a Lilliputian piano on one song and a Western-style slide guitar on another, confirming Matt Helders’ recent revelation there could be “some spaghetti” in their new sound. Perhaps most surprising is an encore of gothic emperor Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’, perhaps chosen in honour of their Antipodean location (only about 1,700 miles out, lads, but never mind).
And then they’re gone, off to give Big Day Out’s far larger crowds the same tantalising peak into that third album. And you? You need to get on YouTube, like, now…