The idea of what qualifies the greatest gigs is a tough one. Sometimes an off the charts scale of ‘epicness’ is to be expected, like when you go to see Roger Waters – The Wall, or The Rolling Stones. People dish out hundreds for tickets to huge gigs like these because they know it’s going to be good. However, at other times truly awesome performances can completely catch you off guard, particularly those gigs your friends drag you to, in some pub you’ve never been to, to see some unsigned, unheard of band that your mate happens to know and they end up blowing your mind.
Sometimes though, the only fair way to really judge how great a performance is is to compare a groups various performances with one another. With that in mind: referring to the Arctic Monkeys as putting on one of the greatest live shows seems the only fair way to go.
I have seen the Arctic Monkeys three times to date. The first time I was fifteen and I had to be accompanied by my mother, and I also had to leave early, which wasn’t ideal. My second performance was when they played Dublin’s O2 Arena some years later. The third was at 2013’s Electric Picnic, which they headlined. I was not excited to see them then, not excited in the slightest. However I ended up being quite pleasantly surprised.
(The boys in the earlier years, awkward and angst-y)
My earlier experiences of seeing the Sheffield boys were generally disappointing to say the least. Get too close and you risk getting injured by an always rowdy crowd screaming for ‘that scummy man song’, or by some genuine eejit who decided to wear six inch stiletto heels in the pit. However, if I took a step back to view the performance and not some girl on her boyfriends’ shoulders, I would end up relying on mine, and my friends bad dancing to entertain myself. My first two experiences seeing them, though they sounded great, left me bored and uncomfortable. Other than a few snappy play-on- words from Alex Turner their performances were a matter of ‘We’re going to get drunk, play our stuff, and go home.’ To say the least my experiences were awkward and disappointing, so when I heard they were headlining Electric Picnic 2013 my response was “Meh”.
In fact for the entire weekend, when those I camped with mentioned them my reply would often be “I’ve seen them twice before, honestly, ‘meh’!” When it came to the last day of the festival I wasn’t bothered to join the crowd, I decided to take a seat with some friends and huddle for warmth, and hoped I wouldn’t fall asleep
How wrongly presumptuous I was. Satisfaction certainly didn’t feel like a distant memory!
Everything about their performance was dramatically different. The set up of the stage, their clothing, their style, their attitude, the whole package had completely altered. It wasn’t simply a matter of playing their music and feckin’ off. It seemed they had come in to their own. Their performance was more confident, more enthusiastic, like at last they weren’t a group of friends who happened to write amazing music so BAM they’re headlining some of the biggest festivals around, they actually wanted to be there. There was no nervousness or apathy about the experience. They wanted to perform, and they wanted to please the crowd.
Their set design was minimalist but epic, the large “AM” lighting up as if to say ‘We’re here, we’re going to blow your mind holes, and we’re going to make a massive statement about it.’
Each song was played with more enthusiasm than a dog that just discovered it had a tail covered in dog treats. A genuine love for the audience was made evident, especially found in their performance of When the Sun Goes Down, after the crowd singing the first verse in unison Turner didn’t simply move on with the song, he stopped and insisted for everyone to give themselves a round of applause. With his statement “Give yourself some fucking credit, come on!” he made it clear that the audience is why he, and the rest of the lads were there, their fans love of the hit is part of what made them the super group that they are.
Although some fans I’ve spoken to have found some issue with Turners new Sheffield-American accent, it’s safe to say he’s not simply a member and lead singer of AM but has become a real front man. As well as the new found appreciation the boys-turned-men seem to have for their fans while playing live, no one can overlook Turners new leaf. His jeans and t-shirts and messy hair have been replaced by glossy tailored suits and a 50s styled hair-cut. Looking at him makes you wonder if he would be the product of a love affair between James Dean and Chuck Berry. All this seems to add to his confidence as not just a musician, but a performer.
From this it can certainly be said that the Arctic Monkeys have clearly said goodbye to their awkward “Eh, here’s another song that we’re going to play” phase and have said hello to a more confident, grown up attitude towards their shows. The words “Arctic Monkeys” no longer simply means intelligent and catchy indie tunes, but real Rock ‘n’ Roll showmanship. Anyone going to see them this month in Marlay Park better be ready for a truly life-altering experience, because you’ll end up feeling like you never realised what music is all about until then. It’s safe to say that the crowd certainly won’t be dashing for the exits, let alone running to the streets outside.