It was always going to take a special band to stop this city talking about a certain reunion. Manchester likes a band with guitars and confidence. They like a band to have a swagger. Not the swagger of a Man City fan celebrating a derby win and not the swagger of a lad showing off his new parker in the Northern Quarter. The people of Manchester like a band to have the swagger of a group of people who are at the top of their game. They also like a band to come from their own city – oh well, you can’t have it all can you?
As Sheffield’s (whisper it) Arctic Monkeys take the stage to the sound of Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’ the crowd reaches boiling point and during storming opener ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ the Monkeys devoted fans are on their feet, spilling out into the aisles of the Manchester Evening News Arena.
That’s right, this is an arena tour. The Arctic Monkeys have become a big band and now play big venues. A lot has changed since a spotty four piece captured the nation’s attention by singing about looking good on the dance floor. Sadly it’ll now be a rare opportunity to catch the band in a, shall we say, cosier venue. But, for what the gig lacked in intimacy it was certainly made up for by the tunes. Old and new the Monkeys are relentless with those tunes. For the whole 90 minute gig drummer Matt Helders pummelled the Manchester crowed with an incessant beat whilst Alex Turner showing off his new Elvis style quiff snarled, charmed and crooned his way through the set. A set that drew heavily from recent album ‘Suck it and see’. New songs ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ and ‘Black Treacle’ were received just like oldfavourites but the biggest receptions were saved for songs taken from debut album ‘Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.’ The sing along during ‘When the sun goes down’ was in the words of Turner “the best yet”. Even the MEN security, sporting those yellow Peter Kay jackets, could be spotted humming along. That’s when they were not busy spotting their next victim to throw out the venue. It was kind of ironic to see pissed up grown men scrapping with security whilst singing the line, “What a scummy man, just give him half a chance I bet he’ll rob you if he can”. I guess that just comes with the territory of these big gigs.
The meaning behind the songs may well be lost on some of this crowd but the meaning of the gig will certainly not be lost on the band. There are few rock ‘n’ roll outfits that manage to cross over into the mainstream but tonight is certainly proof that Arctic Monkeys have done it. You could say they have unwittingly been passed the baton from Oasis to become the guitar band of choice for ‘lads’. This label perhaps doesn’t suit the Monkeys as well as it did the Gallagher brothers but whilst they’re selling out venues the size of the MEN I’m sure they won’t complain.
As the Arctic Monkeys swagger off stage at the end of a triumphant gig and the Manchester crowd file out of the arena the chat is no longer of next summer’s Heaton Park resurrection. The Roses will no doubt put on one hell of a party. It’s a party though that’s already been played out. The Monkeys are for now and the party’s in full swing. Just don’t mention Sheffield.