Saucy, silly, fun for all the family: a review of Arctic Monkeys’ comeback

It is imperative that you see Arctic Monkeys soon. Very soon. On Wednesday night, the four-piece completed the second leg of their tour. If, like me, you were slightly surprised by their venue choices – as a Norwich City fan and Take That 2019 tour alumni, I can’t complain – then you needn’t have worried. Coventry is a city of music, lest we forget Terry Hall’s zombie-ing “Ghost Town”

Aside from the £32 car-parking charge, which my dad nobly swallowed, the gig started off well. Although I wasn’t present for the entire warm-up set, The Hives’ IDGAF-esque Hate to Say I Told You Sowas well worth showing up early for, resplendent as they were in trademark monochromatic suits. It was a crowd-pleaser too, as was frontman Pelle Almqvist’s sarcasm-ridden sweaty banter, mic-swinging and all. 

The Bristol gig on 29th May kicked off with a slowed down rendition of 2006’s “Mardy Bum”, but Coventry were presented with “Brianstorm” – a Favourite Worst Nightmare staple. Matt Helders’ relentless drumming was put to the test from the off and, as ever, he kept up, even as Alex Turner tonguefully slurred the lyrics with his Sheffield-LA twang (and a dollop of something strong, perhaps). 

With barely a breath in between, AM pounded into “Snap Out of It”. Minutes later, and we were onto the twangy and joyfully nonsensical lyrics of “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”. Suck It and See may not be their most popular album, but Turner’s swagger was irresistible, and the crowd lapped it up. A mixture of hypermasculine pint-throwers and gleeful dads “accompanying” their daughters, Cov’s clientele certainly reflected AM’s enduring, multi-decadal charm. 

“Crying Lightning” and “Teddy Picker” followed before Alex attempted some mid-set chatter. He drew out his syllables much as he commanded the stage – coarsely, confidently, and a little bit raunchily. He is, as one Guardian reviewer pointed out, “incredibly keen on himself”, yet it was Turner’s storytelling that was doing the hard work. Ironically, although “Teddy Picker” critiques “any poser or professional pretender around”, Turner is neither. He looked just as comfortable in flared trousers and a Brylcreemed barnet as he did uncomfortable in the jeans and t-shirts of the WPSIATWIN era. 

Number 12 on the setlist was “Fluorescent Adolescent” – a song notably absent from 2018/19’s Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino tour. Popular amongst Inbetweeners fans, the certified banger seamlessly followed the supernatural “My Propeller”

But my song of the night has to go to “Mardy Bum”. Painfully slow at points, the crowd struggled – almost 20 years deep into their love affair – with Turner’s leisurely pace. I forgave him quickly. “Mardy Bum” is, for me, entwined with my dad’s sky-blue Ford Mondeo. It blasted out of those speakers when I was a toddler and has followed me through school, sixth form and uni. It represents our domestic lives so perfectly (and poetically) that, unashamedly, I teared up. 

“There’d Better Be a Mirrorball” proved the perfect chaser to the aforementioned, before we were jolted back into Turner’s daydreams with “505”. While one was (respectfully) a toilet song, the other conjured memories of Glastonbury sets gone by. “Body Paint” closed the set and seemed as much at home with the audience as earlier hits. Unlike at many arena shows, where songs’ nuance is lost to fluffy mics, you could hear every strum of Nick O’Malley’s bass.

The three-song encore was nothing to sniff at either. “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” had every coked-up bucket-hatted youth bouncing, and “R U Mine?” inspired shouts of “Tracy Island”, most of us too young or careless to get the reference. 

Overall, the dimmed down lights and close-up circular shots of band members complimented Turner’s style perfectly. Still retaining a touch of that northern roughness, he was sharp and loose (haired) all at once. Unhurried, AM delivered a show that anyone could enjoy, old fan or new. As my dad said on the way out, clad in his Specials top: “they’re just a really good live band”.

Image credit: Eleanor Luxton

Image description: Arctic Monkeys performing live.