My most memorable gig wasn’t remarkable because of the lights, the dancers or the stage, but because of the explosive energy that the band had.
In August 2011 the Arctic Monkeys performed at Rock en Seine, a Parisian music festival which attracts some of the world’s biggest bands. Alex Turner (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Jamie Cook (lead guitar), Nick O’Malley (bass) and Matt Helders (drums) headlined the three-day festival alongside The Foo Fighters and Archive. Rock en Seine, which has grown steadily since its debut in 2003, featured four stages, 63 acts and attracted more than 100,000 people that year.
‘Suck it and See’, The Arctic Monkeys’ fourth album, was released just two months before the festival. It is different to their earlier albums and is their only album not to reach number one in the Irish charts. The singles released off this album ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair’ and ‘Spangled Hellcat Shalalala’ weren’t as catchy as most of their previous releases, so I was unsure what to expect from them and curious to see if the band would live up to expectations.
On the Saturday, the sun was shining, but a cool wind allowed for perfect festival weather. Throughout the day, French talent like Hushpuppies and BB Brunes played. I saw Cage the Elephant before heading over to the main stage, where Blonde Redhead, The Streets and Interpol warmed up the crowd for the Arctic Monkeys.
As Interpol finished, darkness crept in and the crowd grew significantly. When night time fully arrived, smoke spewed on stage and red lights glared. When the smoke had cleared the Arctic Monkeys were on stage. It was immediately clear that Alex Turner had made a transformation. This was the first time I had seen his Elvis-like quiff, jeans, white t-shirt and leather jacket combination.
Being a man of few words, he approached the microphone and said “Je suis un rockstar” and then launched into Library Pictures off their newest album. It was heavy and fast, and kicked off the show by sending the audience into a frenzy. However, this was just a build up to Brianstorm.
Alex remained cool, suave and silent throughout the show, but it was clear that he did not need to speak to whip up the crowd. I have never experienced such tremendous energy at a gig before, from the fans or the band. This intensity continued on through This House is a Circus and Still Take You Home, until Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair’s hypnotic sound calmed the French crowd to a sway. Then the audience exploded once again when The View From the Afternoon began. It was enough to get goose bumps.
Alex sang a variety of songs from the new and past albums. The set, which lasted at least 90 minutes, came to a perfect close with my favourite song Do Me a Favour, followed by a tender performance of When the Sun Goes Down.
I was unsure if encores were common in France, but luckily they must be, because the quartet from Sheffield returned to the stage soon after the chanting began. Suck it and See ran into Fluorescent Adolescent which saw the audience go wild and sing along word for word. The encore ended with 505 bringing the show to a satisfying conclusion.
The Arctic Monkeys are truly masters at using their music to build a crowd up, make them go wild and bring them back down into an awesome calm. This is what makes their performance unforgettable; the whole experience from the music to the ambiance is a rush.