Of all the bands who have been performing at festivals over the summer, it has to be said that the Arctic Monkeys are the kings of 2014. This season of festival headlining began with an incredible day festival at Marlay Park in Dublin, where the Arctic Monkeys stood alongside Jake Bugg, Miles Kane and Royal Blood as the headline act on a day of incredible live music and lots of beer, in true Irish form. The 12th of July marked the day when around 32,000 tipsy people gathered in a field for eight hours, just to see Alex Turner and his infamous quiff, and to see a little band from Sheffield, England, who have managed to become one of the most popular live bands in the world at the moment. Their last British tour sold out arenas in a matter of minutes, leaving many fans disappointed.
Arctic Monkeys are not a band who pride themselves on overly dramatic entrances, but when Alex Turner pushed his way through a black curtain stage left, the reception he got couldn’t have been larger if he had jumped out of a helicopter tied to a ribbon. The crowd went absolutely mental, but could you blame them? The band has built up a reputation for being difficult to see, with their ticket sales matching that of the legendary bands who have been touring for five decades longer than the Arctic Monkeys. Some people could argue that for a concert so big, with so much hype surrounding it, they should put a bit more effort into their entrance or onstage personas, perhaps running down to meet the crowd as so many singers do nowadays. Despite this, the moment that Alex Turner picked up his guitar and began the instantly recognizable chords for “Do I Wanna Know?“, most of the crowd fell completely in love with him, and were prepared to forgive the lacking wow factor of the concert. They are certainly a band who has developed a very strong and unique appearance and sound, which has been carefully practised and perfected for more than a decade, waiting to reach this peak. Every note they played was so precise, every swish of his quiff was so well executed that it received a scream from every single girl (and most boys) in the crowd. The Arctic Monkeys clearly value their onstage personas as much as they values their musical ability.
Following the release of their award winning album AM, it was only natural for them to perform most of the tracks on the album during the concert. Each song was met with a field full of people singing every word and harmony, despite the songs having been a bit overplayed during the past year. “Arabella“, “Snap Out Of It” and “Knee Socks” had everybody dancing around without a care in the world, because nobody had to think twice about the lyrics. However, the crowd was really put to the test when they decided to throw a few of the less well known songs into the mix – it separated the super fans from the people who only know their songs from television adverts. “My Propeller” and “Library Pictures“, despite not being met by the same enthusiasm as the hits from AM received, were still incredibly well performed, and only allowed the band to further showcase their unbelievable musical talent. For the people who were less interested in the songs that weren’t massively popular hits, they were not left bored due to the lights show that accompanied the music. With a band as successful as the Arctic Monkeys, you always expect them to go all out with lights, and they did in terms of the size of the light beams emerging from the stage. However, after seeing an array of bands live, all of whom have provided shapes made out of lights and confetti cannons, it was easy to be quite underwhelmed by this particular lights show.
Alex Turner teased the audience by leaving the stage at the end of the set, but after only about three minutes he decided it was time to re-emerge for the encore. They began with an acoustic version of “A Certain Romance“, which really allowed him to show off the ability and range of his voice, without the drama and bass in the rest of the songs they performed. These brief few minutes of honest, humble performance were immediately followed by “One For The Road“, “I Wanna Be Yours” and “R U Mine” – quite a change from the acoustic guitar. They were fully aware of how to finish a show properly, leaving everyone wanting to see them again every night for the rest of the week – or wanting to marry Alex Turner (or both!).
I’m not going to patronise anyone by telling you how good the Arctic Monkeys are live, because their awards, achievements, fame, success, wealth, incredibly large following of fans and obvious musical ability are all able to speak for themselves. It is quite clear that this mind-blowing success hasn’t gone to their heads, but you do almost wish that their success would be reflected more in the camaraderie and creativity of their performance. They have said that they will be taking a break for a while now, but not before they do a short but sweet tour of America, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Even if, for some reason, you don’t madly adore the Arctic Monkeys already, I can assure you that a minute at one of their concerts will change that.