Arctic Monkeys – Nottingham Trent FM Arena, Sunday November 22.
Two nights on from Beyoncé’s dazzling, effects-laden extravaganza, it was time for the diametric opposite: a frill-free, no-nonsense, back-to-basics rock gig, from another act at the top of their game. In contrast to the R&B star’s numerous declarations of love, a taciturn Alex Turner offered not much more than a couple of gruff checks that we were “all right, Nottingham?” Formalities dispensed with, he kept his head down and got on with the show.
The simple but effective lighting bathed the band in strong, single colours, alternating between scarlet, turquoise, orange and mauve. The colour scheme was echoed by the screens on either side at the stage, which relayed shadowy, film-like images of the individual band members, silhouetted in tinted monochromes.
Obscured behind shaggy, shoulder-length, centre-parted curtains of hair, the three-man front line – Turner, guitarist Jamie Cook and bassist Nick O’Malley – matched each other for unreadable inscrutability, rumbling and twanging their way through the set with impressive cohesion and control. More storyteller than showman, Turner casts himself as one of life’s observers: the quiet kid in the corner with the notepad on his lap, taking it all in with a quizzical eye, and relaying it back with a snappy, sardonic turn of phrase.
Four years ago, the Monkeys exploded onto the scene, grabbing everyone’s attention with two chart-topping singles and a debut album that was hailed as an instant classic. Three albums down the line, they’ve toned down some of that early precociousness, settling into a comfortable – and some might say conservative – niche. Their newest songs might lack the instantly anthemic qualities of the older hits, but you sense that Turner and his band are in it for the long haul: sturdy, dependable reliables, with a loyal fanbase who have learnt every word off by heart.
Notably more subdued during an extended stretch of lesser-known album tracks, the crowd burst back into life for a rip-roaring rattle through When The Sun Goes Down. An explosion of translucent ticker-tape then brought the main set to an unexpectedly showy conclusion. (Perhaps Ms Knowles had left a box or two behind on Friday night?) It was the one nod to spectacle, at the end of a curiously austere and uninvolving performance. The sweaty moshers down the front might have gone home happy – but for the stranded souls towards the rear, who strained to make sense of the blurred visuals and the muddy sound, the verdict seemed altogether less clear.
Dance Little Liar
This House Is A Circus
Still Take You Home
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
The View From The Afternoon
If You Were There, Beware
The Jeweller’s Hands
Do Me A Favour
When The Sun Goes Down
Fluorescent Adolescent / Mardy Bum