Pond came in with scorching guitar effects and all synths blazing. Supporting the Arctic Monkeys is not an easy ask, but the psychedelic rockers handled it with style. Their mighty sound coalesced with cleverly induced feedback, intense looping, and delayed effects seemed to signal the apocalypse.
Anticipation was seething as the time drew closer for Arctic Monkeys to arrive. A vast array of bulbs making up the letters A and M dominated the back of the stage, where trails of light would blaze throughout the set.
A deafening cheer signalled the entry of the four Brits, with frontman Alex Turner making sure his route to centre stage took him right to the edge of the crowd. Guitarist Jamie Cook sauntered out full-mod, all suit and style. The two side screens flashed on, emphasising the awe at seeing one of the biggest bands in the world only metres away.
It was incredibly hard to believe that this confident group of musicians were the same rough and slightly scruffy bunch that just four albums ago looked like a generic pub band. They’ve gained the shine and the maturity, but lost none of the attitude that has driven all of their releases to chart success.
Turner, with his slicked-back hair and slightly unbuttoned shirt, wasted no time on small talk. His piercing gaze took in all the room as the kick drum signalled the start of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ – the highly sexualised anthem that now defines the band’s new sound on AM.
The frontman’s electric guitar proved as wonderfully crispy and full-bodied as the album version, and the floor shook with each smack on the kick drum. The audience gleefully threw the lyrics back at the band as they careened their way through two favourites off AM – ‘Snap Out Of It’ and the aurally addictive ‘Arabella’.
Turner’s Elvis inspired moves were graceful, if unsubtle, but it was up to him to keep the performance flowing alongside his tame bandmates. You could expect the Sheffield musician to strut around the stage like an adolescent rebel, and then smile when miming the Macarena during ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’.
Although it may have felt like it, it wasn’t all about Turner. The end of one song saw Cook face off with the frontman as they jammed an outro together. Drummer Matt Helders really got to show off with the heavy rolling drums on ‘Fireside’ – one of many songs where he effortlessly provides the higher pitch back-up vocals.
At one point, the singer reminded the excited crowd that it was Helders’ birthday, who apparently wanted “a room full of Queenslanders” as his present. “Did he get his wish, Brisbane?” enticed Turner, prompting a terrible attempt by a thousand people to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in time. “Summat like that,” the frontman remarked wryly.
Towards the second half of their set, the band tossed out some of the older favourites. Cool blue light stabbed through the smoke to signal the start of the slower than expected ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. A brief pause in the last chorus to let the audience bellow the familiar words was fanatically appreciated.
The quirky keyboard sounds that are so integral to the new album were nothing more than a garnish live, sometimes fighting rather than complementing Turner’s voice and his coarse guitar. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ and the dance-inducing ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ were well received, although the catchy main riff of ‘Knee Socks’ was absolutely worth waiting for.
“It’s that time,” announced Turner, when swapping to his acoustic guitar for ‘No.1 Party Anthem’. A dazzling swirl of white dots filled the venue as several disco balls splashed light everywhere whilst Turner crooned out his latest working class ballad. The cool light effect was replicated soon after when, first a few, then dozens of white orbs lit the room as anyone with a smart phone switched on their flash. It looked truly remarkable.
During the last song of the night ‘R U Mine?’, the venue’s PA cut out, leaving the band playing gloriously onstage, but unable to be heard.
Which is better? That no one cared and everyone kept on singing regardless, or that rather than just walking off stage, the Arctic Monkeys played the entire song again. Yes – rather than leave the set unfulfilled, Turner turned around with a gleam in his eye. “Let’s try that again, shall we?”
The last song for the night began with Turner telling Brisbane that he was theirs. “The question is,” he beckoned, “Are you mine?” After that gig, there can be only one answer. Yes, Arctic Monkeys, infinitely so.