Off the back of their Mercury Prize shortlisted album Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino, Arctic Monkeys hit the road to tour the UK, including the band’s home city, Sheffield, for the first time in almost five years. They played four sold-out shows at the FlyDSA Arena on the 18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd of September.
Prior to the tour, the band released their album in May and launched a pop-up shop in Sheffield. The album divided fans with its new, experimental sci-fi sound. Critics raved about it but fans expecting a thrashing indie band record were let down. It didn’t stop the shows from selling out though.
The stage was set with a huge light-up hexagon hanging above the band (emulating the album’s cover art), alongside an illuminated ‘Monkeys’ sign just in case anyone forgot who they were seeing. As Alex Turner walked on stage sporting a newly shaved head and wearing a suave colourful suit, he addressed his home crowd with ‘I ain’t seen you in ages’. The arena erupted.
Each Sheffield show had similar setlists guaranteed to please any Monkeys fan with songs going all the way back to 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Three of the shows opened with the new album’s anthem ‘Four Out of Five’ and despite differing opinions among fans, the whole crowd got into it and roared with chants of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire!”
The most played songs were from their penultimate album, AM. Hits such as ‘Snap Out Of It’, ‘Arabella’ and ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ launched frontman Turner into the slick showman he is, waltzing across the stage and gracing the enormous crowd with his quirky off-beat moves. Turner presented himself as a calm and collected professional who had done this many times before.
As the shows progressed, hits performed from the new album, unfortunately, exemplified the public feelings towards the record. ‘Star Treatment’ and ‘One Point Perspective’ were played by the band exceptionally and it sounded like listening to Alex Turner on the actual album as he sang the lyrics, but they were the only songs of the night where the crowd fell flat, stopped moshing and started to look at their phones. However, fan of the album or not, it was a goosebumps moment when the guitar riff in ‘She Looks Like Fun’ broke through during the song and when the extended outro version of ‘Four Out of Five’ played at the end of the gig on the 21st.
Unsurprisingly, the show stealers were indie rock classics from their older albums. ‘From The Ritz to the Rubble’ was an unexpected surprise for the lucky ones that got to see it and ‘Don’t Sit Down Because I Moved Your Chair’ pushed the whole crowd to the front of the arena where the mosh pits began. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rotherham could hear the crowds belting out the bands most popular tune ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor’ and the die-hard fans were unexpectedly treated to slower classics ‘505’ and ‘Cornerstone’.
The Arctic Monkeys’ emotional tributes to Sheffield, in the form of acapella versions of their classics, made national headlines. Each show had a stripped back version of the song played. One show got ‘Mardy Bum’, the others got ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and ‘A Certain Romance’. Amongst the crowd, I heard people complaining that it wasn’t the actual version but there were also others crying in joy over their favourite songs getting a new, emotional rendition. As a band, they can’t please everyone (and don’t look to) but I thought it was an incredible gesture for fans of their home city.
The Arctic Monkeys returned to Sheffield and created an atmosphere and buzz in the Steel City, unlike any other band that has played here in recent history, with people from all over the country swarming in for the weekend. They also put on a complete spectacle. The band were electric and Alex Turner was looking sharp and singing perfectly. It would have been nice to hear more from Turner between songs, although we did get the odd belter of a one-liner from him. When they played ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ on Friday night, Turner said: “We didn’t care much for this song when we wrote it. Now we care about it even less”, then launched into it. It was also a shame about the crowd’s reaction to some of the new songs but this was overshadowed by the band putting on a more than four out of five performance.
Image: Mike Pennington