Arctic Monkeys have never been about following a trend. They’ve never been about catching up to what’s going on around them. They’ve had their own path from the beginning. From the first time Alex Turner muttered “don’t believe the hype”, through to ‘Humbug’ and its knock on the head to the world around it – they’ve always been the first to point to where next, rather than asking for directions.
With ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, they served their most drastic transformation to date – one that had fans scratching their head and wondering what on earth was happening as Mr Turner & Co. led a triumphant wave of piano-lead tinkery. Any doubts to their place at the very top have been squashed to bits this summer, with the album evolving and morphing into one of the year’s defining releases and a live show that’s taken them to new, new heights. They have become a band that rises above phases.
Speaking of eras, The Lemon Twigs find themselves in a glorious combination of two. The 60s/70s knack of melody is as radiant live as it is on record, but the second mixer is something altogether more current. Shimmering and bursting from the first note, they take on The O2 as if its the playground down the street – squarely theirs and if you’re not on board then you need to get it. Flying legs, struggling swagger and a spit in your face drive – they win over a packed room waiting for ‘Brianstorm’ by never letting up. The glorious ‘These Words’ continues to ring big, and their presence across two albums now may make The Lemon Twigs one of the most exciting live acts going. There’s bust ups, smiles and hooks galore – tonight they’re ludicrously brilliant.
When through the lens of ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, the world of Arctic Monkeys feels timeless. Jumping across nearly 13 years with an effortless charm, every track fits into place as if where they find themselves tonight is where they’ve always wanted to be – giving new life to tracks and beaming with swagger. From the opening chords of ‘Four Out Of Five’, it’s a set that never lets up – the likes of ‘Crying Lightning’, ‘Knee Socks’ and ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ rubbing shoulders with ‘Teddy Picker’, ‘Dancing Shoes’ and ‘Arabella’ in the sort of fusion that thrives with bold showmanship. A glistening showbiz stage for a band that can make The O2 feel like a ballroom with the click of their fingers. As Alex Turner eyes the room around him, a Miles Kane-guesting ‘505’ explodes with fevered power, with the band firmly in control to do as they please – and they do so in such a spectacular fashion that the fact they may not play some big-time hits feels secondary. As they did with ‘Humbug’, this year they took the hit of constant questioning, of second-guessing whether they may have lost it and what this all means. Their response is shown tonight – an invitation to their front lounge of stylish excess that has everyone gulping down the champagne big time.
Warm, peerless and unquestionable – this is where Arctic Monkeys thrive, and they’re simply just getting better and better. As Alex leads 20,000 people through the singalong refrains ‘Cornerstone’, oozes cool on ‘Science Fiction’ and rolls out the stomping beast that is ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ – their place is confirmed. A band who changed the music world with an all-time classic debut have refused to play by anyone else’s rules, and it’s why Arctic Monkeys aren’t just top of the pops right now – but arguably, are a band we’ll be talking about in 50 years time alongside some of the all-time greats. What they’re doing right now is nothing short of phenomenal. You’d be pretty foolish to question them ever again.
Words: Jamie Muir