Arctic Monkeys - The Hydro, Glasgow, Thu 21 Nov 2013
Near-faultless performance to cap off a near-faultless year
What a difference a year makes. Given that Arctic Monkeys went from being signed by Domino to having the fastest-selling debut album in British music history in under seven months (with 2006’s Mercury Award-winning Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not), Alex Turner and his Steel City compatriots know this all too well.
Arctic Monkeys received harsh criticism for their last two albums. Numerous column inches suggested that with Suck It and See, they had reached an impasse. One BBC music writer summarised, saying they’d see improvement ‘if they ever decide to truly lunge into the unknown’.
This year witnessed such a plunge, with adventurous fifth release AM and a memorable Glastonbury set as springboards.
They should have arrived in Glasgow three weeks earlier, had it not been for lead singer Alex Turner contracting laryngitis (possibly from a dodgy bottle of Mercury Awards champagne? *cough*). Although Turner slips in an awkward apology, their show is much like tonight’s pristine venue – undeniably impressive.
Turner looks like a man rejuvenated, effortlessly toying with an audience through comedy, charisma and his newfound adoption of crooning, which peculiarly never appears contrived. Instead, ‘this one’s for the girls’ dedications or launching into songs immediately after rhetorical questions helps amplify Monkeys’ formidable stage presence.
The pre-encore, confetti-filled chorus of ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ majestically glistens around the amphitheatre, while ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ sees Turner’s John Lennon influence (beyond his dress sense circa 1959) fully reveal itself. Through the Hydro’s aural grandeur, it wonderfully highlights the bridge between Lennon’s half of ‘A Day In The Life’ and 1974 track ‘Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)’.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is ‘Arabella’. Although veiled on AM, the live version is seven musicians strong, pulling out each thunder strike of Jamie Cook’s guitar to produce something musically stunning.
Before ‘Mardy Bum’ – Turner’s distinctive cloth-cap take on the serenade – he asks, ‘Do you want to hear a “normal” Arctic Monkeys record?’ An interesting distinction from a songwriter who’s consciously tried to break the shackles of the genre that ushered in his group’s immediate arrival.
Given that AM is simultaneously their most daring and their most commercially successful record yet, the band’s nosedive into the unknown has been a masterstroke, and for all those willing to adopt amnesia about the initial cancellation, their Hydro debut is a near-faultless performance to cap off a near-faultless year.