Sixteen days after Arctic Monkeys’ homecoming gig at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena was postponed due to a waterlogged larynx, High Green’s finest took to the stage to rapturous adulation from the 13,600 strong crowd.
Hardly surprising. These four lads are revered on a biblical scale in the Steel City. Arctic Monkeys are to Sheffielders what The Beatles are to Liverpudlians, and what The Stone Roses are to Mancunians.
And the fact that these fans had to wait an extra couple of weeks to see their heroes meant that the sense of anticipation was bigger than Alex Turner’s quiff.
As soon the band swaggered on stage and Jamie Cook’s hypnotic guitar riff on Do I Wanna Know? started to reverberate around this most cavernous of prefabricated caverns, you got the inkling it was going to be one of those special nights.
Any doubt about this was completely obliterated when the band followed the opener with the thunderous Brianstorm, the place was buzzing, people were going barmy. The atmosphere was electric. The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd. Magical.
This was followed by a track of each off their first four albums (Dancing Shoes, Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair, Teddy Picker, and Crying Lightning), before the band returned to their latest album, AM, in the form of the infectious Fireside.
We then reached the weakest part of the set with a trio of tunes which, put it this way, wouldn’t have made my Ultimate Arctic Monkeys set list. Filler. As the band plodded through Reckless Serenade, Old Yellow Bricks, and One For The Road, many of lads who’d been filling up on lager for the past few hours took this opportunity to slink off to the gents and to the bar.
But this was only a slight blip, and normal service was quickly resumed.
Not surprisingly, a large portion of the set was devoted to the new album, their best work since their legendary and brilliant 2006 debut.
During Arabella, one of many highlights from AM, the boys went all Black Sabbath on us, folding a snippet of War Pigs into the mix.
Things were racheted up another level with the schizophrenic Pretty Visitors, the stand out track from 2009 album Humbug. “All the pretty visitors came and waved their arms and cast the shadow of a snake pit on the wall,” cooed Turner, painting a picture with his lyrics, like only he can, of the scene unfolding before him.
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By this point the band were on fire, and the crowd were on fire.
Turner, who seems to have created a tongue-in-cheek on-stage persona for himself (a Jarvis Cocker/Elvis hybrid), was whipping up the crowd between songs, including leading a rousing chorus of Oh Sheffield Is Wonderful.
By this point in the gig the band and crowd alike were in need of a bit of breather, and things were slowed down a notch as the set drew to a close with Cornerstone, No. 1 Party Anthem, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, Fluorescent Adolescent, Do Me A Favour, and I Wanna Be Yours.
Turner and co returned for the inevitable encore which started with another one off AM (Snap Out Of It), followed by a new, semi-acoustic arrangement of the anthemic fans’ favourite Mardy Bum.
The night ended, as it had started, on a massive high, with the electrically brilliant R U Mine? a song with more oomph than a Scud missile.
Arctic Monkeys are a lot more than just Alex Turner, as charismatic and phenomenally talented as he is. In Matt Helders they possess the greatest drummer of a generation. A young man who seems to sprout extra limbs when he gets behind his kit. Some of the things he does during the likes of Brianstorm and Pretty Visitors would be impossible for a mere human. He’s like what Reni would be like if he worked out and was turned up to 11.
Nick O’Malley’s roaming bass lines are the perfect foil for Helders’ beats, and the two also team up to provide the falsetto harmonies on much of the newer stuff.
Cook’s snarling, QOTSA-influenced riffs complete the square.
As the band triumphantly trooped off the stage and the lights came on, the feeling of elation among the throngs of fans filing out the arena was palpable.
This sense of euphoria wasn’t simply down to the fact that we’d just witnessed our local heroes put on a spellbinding show. It was much more than that. It was the sense of having just witnessed, experienced, the last great rock ‘n’ roll band.