It's a strange time to go and see the Arctic Monkeys. Forever immortalised as the soundtrack to my teenage rebellion, their debut album was the absolute embodiment of weekend nights on the local bench (we didn't have a park). 'Riot Van' once seemed like the most appropriately penned song in the entire history of everything, 'Fluorescent Adolescent' not being all too far behind. Unfortunately though, we do have to grow up, pointless exercise or not. Fast forward eight years, and the tracky bottoms have been swapped for double-breasted three-piece suits. Pomade reigns king on their fro-focused rider, and it shows that they're seriously trying to embrace the idea of being the type of guys who have headlined Glastonbury twice. Granted, they are no longer the chippy tea lads from Sheffield, but are they yet truly worthy of being something you pass down to your children?

We arrive at the soon to be demolished Earls Court just as the Strypes are starting up their support slot. Endless attempts to sneak past the scaries straight into the standing section are proving ever so slightly flawed, yet we do manage to sweet talk Keith (minder and guardsman of block 28, 2nd tier) into letting us sit together - I say sweet talk, it was more of a sour beg. Consequently, we only witness a couple of ditties from the young men. Whatever your views are on fifteen-year-old rock bands writing about all things love and destruction, you do have to appreciate the sheer musicianship on offer - I've already explained where I'd have been on a Friday night at their age.

Having said that, I can't help but feel like there should be a little more. More of what, you ask? Just more more. You know, you're young as fuck, you're playing to 20,000 people, there are people much prettier and older than you singing your lyrics back to your little spotty faces… give something more. Sure, the stage is pretty large and there's an obvious argument for trying to be 'cool', but liquid testosterone would have been forming a small reservoir beneath my still growing feet by now. By the time they get to their big hit 'Blue Collar Jane', it's obvious that a lot of the room know their music very well. Had fate have been kinder, and that had in fact have been me stood up there, I'd have been on the absolute precipice of shameless ejaculation at this point. They are not. And if they are, they are certainly not making the most of it. They sort of just shrug off the stage with a bit of a bow. I sort of just go for a beer.


Overpriced ales at the ready, we watch on from some distance as the stage is set up. Arctic Monkeys haven't exactly garnered the reputation of being an incredibly experimental live outfit, nor a theatrically clichéd one, so I expect that the two titan glowing letters at the back are the furthest extreme of their live show. They saunter on stage to a wall of high-pitched screams, and after one (much rehearsed) slick back of the hair, the drums begin proceedings with lead single 'Do I Wanna Know?'

It's the perfect way to begin the set, and everyone down at the front seems to agree. The sea of heads soon merges into various whirlpools of mosh pits that last for the duration of the show, cans of beer/piss darting into the air like grubby little man-made geysers. The transition into 'Brianstorm' is both immediate and ferocious, and you suddenly get the feeling that they're not going to let up on the hits.

I'd like to say that this sparks up a solid run of five that shows no sign of slowing down, yet in truth, to limit it to just five would be criminal. 'Dancing Shoes' and 'Teddy Picker' certainly set the pace, bookending what is arguably their most jugular splicing in 'Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair'. This is not, however, an initial power section. This is the beginning stage of a tour de force from a band at the very summit of their career.


Whilst the view from our location may not be great (a lack of screens in a venue formerly used to construct ocean liners is a big boo boo for me) the sound isn't suffering one bit. It helps that Turner is one of very few frontmen who doesn't hide behind swathes and swathes of reverb, and every sharp quip of wit can be heard with complete clarity. The once maligned 'Crying Lightning' does little to dampen the atmosphere - quite the opposite in reality - yet it does bring things down nicely to show off more of the new material. It's far from unknown, proving just how well received the AM has been. An enigmatic version of personal highlight 'Fireside' sees the brilliant Bill Ryder Jones join them onstage, and his various appearances throughout the night really do add another dimension to the sound. There are no melodic gaps here whatsoever, as the extra strings allow Turner to focus his energy onto his lovesick croons. It's about as far from first album as you can get, without losing any of the story telling strength which has served them so well.

They snake in between old fan favourites and future hits at ease, soon arriving at the stand out 'Arabella'. It's at this point that Turner decides it best to show off some of those Rock God poses, and even from our distance, they look shite. I'm all for him being a frontman, even if I think he had his own perfectly good thing going pre-quiffgate, but the hand movements and the leg arcing is a little too far for me. It looks silly, you look silly, we know it's fake, stop doing it. Fortunately, it doesn't detract, and soon we are treated to an outing of the brilliant 'Pretty Visitors', one of just three tracks appearing from Humbug.

Jones is back in the fold for this one, and it sounds bloody gargantuan - that middle 8 breakdown prompting some brilliant Chicken Vs. Dickhead dance moves from a wonderful couple in front. As 'I Bet You Look Good…' starts up, I can't help but feel that there is a witty joke in here for me to link current song title and said chicken moves together, relaying to my girlfriend in an attempt to draw a rare, genuine laugh. There isn't, and the fact that I thought there was goes some way to showing why I never get genuine laughs. I take my chances and head for a wee instead, missing 'Cornerstone' in the process. This means I got the wee break timing bob on. All's well that ends well.

One more partnership of new versus old and it seems like we're starting to wind down. This is confirmed by the band, as they bring back BRJ for one final outing with Cooper Clarkes 'I Wanna Be Yours' - It's one of the most prominent highlights of the entire evening. The glaring omission of all but two tracks from the much acclaimed Suck It and See suggests that the Monkeys are no longer all that interested in schmultzy ballad hybrids, yet if they've ever hit the bullseye with a slow number, here it bloody well is. Lighters and phones pop out below us, as one brave bastard springs a flare from his pocket. His personal light show is joined by jet streams of glitter confetti as the final chorus hits, and everything around the arena feels quite lovely. I get a cuddle, they get a clap, my beer gets a load of plastic squares floating in it.


They reappear for their encore, starting with 'Snap out of It' before initiating a much softer, almost acoustic version of 'Mardybum'. For all of its nostalgic value, it doesn't once come across contrived or cheesy - a rare tender moment in a set list of relentless rockers. We know what's coming next, as they aim to finish their set with the only track that can better the one they started with. They milk out the pause as much as all mega bands should, thanking London, the venue, the fans, their mums, the fans mums, their mates etc. etc. As soon as that opening line echoes around the room though, it's clear that they have in fact evolved quite magnificently. The drums in 'R U Mine' are just as raw as those from 2006, the callback vocals from Matt Helders being pretty similar to those he displayed in 'Balaclava'. They are not the same band though. They have become the biggest British Rock'n'Roll band of our generation, all the while avoiding that 'super lad' bullshit pit they so nearly went crashing into, via the legacy left by the likes of Oasis. That in itself is something to be celebrated, but to pull it off with the polish seen tonight is something only truly seminal bands can achieve. It's a brilliant time to go and see the Arctic Monkeys.