Wednesday 30 October 2013

Live Review: Arctic Monkeys, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff 29/10/2013

As runours run high ahead of the Mercury Prize awards ceremony on Wednesday, every bookie in town predicting their own favourite to win, I'd say after tonight's show there's one worthy contender inching ahead of the pack. With an unrivalled work rate in 2013, a stellar headline performance at Glastonbury and not to mention a number 1 selling album, reinventing the band to becoming one of the most prominent fixtures in our UK music scene, Arctic Monkeys return to Cardiff to bring down the Motorpoint Arena.

With no trouble at all in selling out a 7,500 capacity venue months in advance it's clear to see just how popular the band have become in recent years. This same scenario runs up and down the country, right across the globe. Could anyone have predicted such success? Who knows. When their debut album 'Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not' dropped in 2006 they instantaneously became one of the best break through acts the UK has ever seen. To be honest, I'm yet to see any band come remotely close in to forging such new ground with each release. Taking the charts by storm in 7 years they've gone on to release 4 more critically acclaimed albums bringing us bang up to date with 2013's AM, all done through DIY label Domino too might I add.

With all that being said there was no doubt to be some queueing tonight. Us Brits love a good queue after all don't we. Making my way through the doors, cloakroom, toilets and bar relatively unscathed minus a 50 minute deduction on my life I finally found myself submerged mid centre amongst a sea of fake leather jackets and Burberry imitations. I'm quite surprised I've not seen any quiffs yet. Support for the evening came in the form of The Strypes. Now it's funny how times change. I briefly saw them live back in July when they supported the Courteeners in Manchester's Castlefield Arena. I say briefly because I spent most of their set stood behind an ice cream van drinking beer as I was yet to be convinced by their sound. Fast forward three short months and one debut album later and I've been totally won over. So with everyone due a second chance in life I was thankful for another opportunity to see them as I awaited the Irish lads to take to the stage. Kicking things off with Mystery Man I could not think of a better support act more suited to an arena sized venue. With searing influences from the likes of Rock 'n' Roll stars Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones to name but a few their music is undeniably catchy. And hellbent on bringing back the harmonica the Cavan four-piece are definitely making a name for themselves through their refreshing take on modern day Rock. With only 3 songs down and a mosh pit already well underway it's clear to see their popularity amongst fans. Dressed to the nines, with lead singer Ross Farrelly bedecked with his sunglasses indoors look, the band power through one of the most high powered sets I've seen in recent times without barely a breather between songs. And that's the thing you come realise with The Strypes, their music rarely slows to a halt or crawling pace. It's just hit after hit after hit, Angel Eyes being your only opportunity to recompose through its jangly high strung guitar solos. With a touching tribute to Lou Reed breaking out in to Perfect Day mid song and a setlist injected with pure adrenalin the (very) young foursome have more than proved themselves as very worthy arena performers.

With a fairly shorter wait than expected (come on, we all know of that agonising pain from the never ending looped CD at typical arena shows), anticipation grew to an almighty high as the lights finally died away only to be revived in the form of mobile phones and cameras. Looking to triumph on their showstopping Glastonbury performance earlier in the year, Alex Turner decked out in quite the sparkling number, the band wasted no time in turning up the volume setting off with Do I Wanna Know. By the time Brainstorm and Dancing Shoes were unleashed mosh pits began to spring up in numerous places as a shoe was raised in the air - quickly recovered by its rightful owner. With an almighty back catalogue of hits to choose from I wouldn't want to be in charge of cultivating this tours setlsit. I guess everyone has their favourites and it's nice to see Arctic Monkeys do a fine job in keeping everyone satisfied.

As red lights began to shine a heated warmth on to the stage marking the arrival of Fireside there's no doubting Alex's Rock-God status as he departs from his guitar and opts for a more venerable position on centre stage. With some funky dance moves in tow the band effortlessly switch between albums as they go on to play Reckless Serenade, one of my favourites from 2011's 'Suck It And See'. Is this the only frontman to get away with a dodgy mishmash American accent and Elvis impersonating quiff? "This one's for the ladies, but fellas you can join in too if you want" he echoes as the band break in to I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, the place erupting in to a frenzy. As the pace began to slow towards the end of the show with Cornerstone hotly followed by No. 1 Party Anthem there was a look of welcomed relief in the majority of the prepubescent beer-throwing party goers as they could breath once more as the need to push to the front eased. The perfect time for one casualty to be carried out draped over someones shoulders to get some much needed medical attention.

All through the night the crowd responded to each and every command, swarming to wherever Alex stepped foot as he thanked the front, back and balconies before entering in to the lyrically profound I Wanna Be yours, confetti cannons aligned spewing out their silver shards. Returning to the stage for a 3 track encore, elevating themselves to new heights as Matt Helders thunderous percussion forms the gut wrenching backdrop to R U Mine, the band round up what has been a fantastic night of replenishment as Turner surfed the finely drawn line of cocky confidence.

I can't say this was your typical Monkeys concert with many unassuming tracks making the list but what I can lay claim to is you may be searching for quite some time trying to find anyone able to top this level of showmanship. As they bow out on a deafening round of applause I think it's safe to say this is one magical band. I'm not saying Arctic Monkeys are miracle workers....No, actually, maybe that's exactly what I'm saying after tonight's antics. Hell, they even cured my bad back and I hit 12 sets of consecutively green lights on my drive home. Now if that ain't some kind of miracle at work I don't know what is.


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