Arctic Monkeys Live Review: A Truly Great British Band

While millions watched talentless no-marks singing bad songs badly on X Factor, a lucky few caught Arctic Monkey smash the back out of the O2 Arena...
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While millions watched talentless no-marks singing bad songs badly on X Factor, a lucky few caught Arctic Monkey smash the back out of the O2 Arena...

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As Arctic Monkey's take to the stage at the 02 on Sunday evening somewhere less important ten million sponges under the spell of Cowell await news of which nobody they'll forget first.

With this other world going on the hard but playful opener "Don't sit down 'cause I've moved your chair' is swiftly followed by Alex Turner's cutting analogy of the X Factor country we live in 'Teddy Picker'.

Knowing what everyone else is watching at this moment rings the words truer. "The sheer desperation to be seen" as "The kids all dream of making it, whatever that means." All that shit has never felt more inferior, being at a gig with this band never more important.

Alex Turner has got it. He looks as though he's just come back from auditioning for the lead role in 'Grease' having secured the part. It takes a rare rock star to be able to carry this look off without being laughed at. The lad can basically do whatever he wants. It always works. "He doesn't do anything shit", as Joel Stoker from The Rifles recently told me.

The gig takes off to another level all together with "Brianstorm", "The View From The Afternoon" and "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor". A relentless hat trick of songs that batter the adoring crowd. The band might as well collect their match ball and leave the stage. They've already won and you're in the palm of their hands. Sheffield's finest have the power to take the gig anywhere they want, safe in the knowledge that you'll have no option but to come with them. Matt Helders drums will force you.

Helders carries the torch for personality rock 'n' roll drummers of the past. As much time is spent marvelling at the man with the sticks as it is Turner. Every thud is hit as though it's the last, his life dependent on it. So many bands change formation that you wouldn't recognise the drummer, let alone miss one, but Helders is vital. With him, Turner and the tight unit of a great band at their peak playing these songs, failure isn't possible.

X Factor results are in but they might as well have happened on Mars. Totally fuckin irrelevant.

"This is 'Brick by Brick', introduces it's author. "You either love it or you hate it, but if you hate it you're wrong." The song and Turner's stance signal a supreme confidence and will to do what they want, something they've always had and demanded.

You worry that enjoying an Arctic Monkey's song live too much will mean Turner decides to put it away and never play again ('A Certain Romance' anyone?), yet it's bloody hard not to. As the pace of "Do me a favour" builds magnificently to a climax of the most glorious "to tear apart the ties that bind, perhaps f**k off might be to kind" you look around at your best mates screaming every word just as loud as you, with arms draped around each other, and then to the four mates on stage gloriously responsible for it.

X Factor results are in but they might as well have happened on Mars. Totally fuckin irrelevant.

The night hasn't even peaked. Songs from the classic debut album have slowly disappeared from the live set over the years. Whilst this is the natural progression of a truly great British band with four albums under their belt who don't have to dine out on 'Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not', it's also due to a reluctance to revisit songs written by a very different and younger Turner.

Talk of "classic Reeboks" means less to Turner now he's travelled the world and talking about 'Fake Tales of San Francisco' isn't as easy to do when you've been there and heard the true ones. Such songs are missed live, whilst dropping others isn't an option.

'When The Sun Goes Down' is rock 'n' majesty with the arena bouncing as one.

Somewhat reluctantly a stripped back acoustic version of 'Mardy Bum' is played almost to stop people asking for it. It's great, but bubbles away waiting for the full band to bring it to the boil before everyone joins in as '505' concludes fittingly.

In 2006 the band released an EP in which the lead song asked the question "In five years time, will it be 'Who the fuck's Arctic Monkeys?". With 2011 approaching it's end tonight provides an answer that the band already knew.

No.

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