Last night was Arctic Monkeys' final gig of the tour, and as you might imagine, it was incredible. When the band walked on, the crowd roared and t-shirts and drinks went flying. The sold-out 11,000 arena was electric and pretty much everyone with seated tickets were on their feet the entire time.
The whole standing area was one big mosh pit as the crowd surged in all directions to the tunes. Nights like last night are what I and so many music fans live for. It was electric. It’s hard to single out the night’s highlights but amongst them were ‘Do Me a Favour’, ‘Brianstorm’, and ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. It was clear to see that there is a lot of love out there for the Arctic Monkeys and their classics, however, as you grow up, you realise that change is a big part in life.
I’m pretty sure that anyone who follows any sort of music blog will have read a review of Arctic Monkeys’ new album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. Basically, their style has changed massively, and a lot of people don’t like it. “Get off the piano” and “where’s the guitar?” were amongst the shouts from the slightly bored fans last night after a run of ‘The Ultracheese’ and ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’. And if you haven’t checked out any videos from the ‘TBHC’ tour, you won’t know that because their new album is such a shift from their previous albums (specifically ‘AM’), the band have chosen to alter the tempo of some of the old songs that they play to fit the vibe of the new album.
This essentially means that their live shows are not the same as they used to be (even when playing the old songs). Their shift in sound meant that a lot of fans who turned up for an ‘AM’ style sweaty mosh didn’t quite get what they had hoped for. Songs like ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Knee Socks’ were slowed down, and the TBHC set was incorporated into ‘R U Mine?’ and ‘505’ with TBHC styled fades between some songs.
A lot of the fans (especially those who have never seen them perform before) were annoyed at this change, which is understandable if you’ve been dying to see your favourite song performed, only to have a different version played. But I think these changes worked well, it’s cool to see their old music change and grow with the band - it meant that I was experiencing something new. And those who disagree will be glad to hear that their classics like ‘Brianstorm’ and ‘I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ were as iconic as they’ve always been.
However, some of the changes didn’t quite click. We all know that everyone at an Arctic Monkeys’ gig hopes to hear ‘Mardy Bum’, but they never play it anymore. However, on this tour they have been surprising fans in some UK cities with a switched up ‘TBHC’-styled ‘Mardy Bum’. We were lucky enough to be at one of those shows (see here). Alex sang a two-verse snippet with only a drum beat looping in the back.
Listening to this outside of the concert context, the drum loop doesn’t really work, especially compared to a similar moment at Leeds Festival in 2014 when (like this tour) they hadn’t been playing ‘Mardy Bum’ and Alex whipped out an improvised verse with just his guitar (see here). A lot of fans, including myself, think they pushed their change a bit too far with this one and that if you’re going to play a fan favourite, you have to do the song justice. But to be honest, when you’re there singing with 11,000 people, drum loop or not, it’s a magical moment.
The visual performance was faultless. The lighting suited the songs perfectly, strobes for more upbeat/moshy songs, and spotlights for more relaxed/emotional ones. The set includes a huge flashing ‘Monkeys’ sign, the ‘TBHC’ logo as a ceiling that moved up and down, and a hotel-style prop lamp in the corner. It was interesting to see how the set and visual elements differ from location to location.
I was lucky enough to see them headline at Rock Werchter festival earlier this year, and it’s safe to say that the songs from the new album definitely worked better indoors as the huge disco cube reflected off all of the walls, making you feel like you were involved in the whole experience, not just with the audience but with Arctic Monkeys too. Those with seated tickets had the set to marvel at (something that the other tours haven’t had), and the old songs worked perfectly well in both settings too, my personal favourite being a show stopping ‘R U Mine?’ with crazy lighting effects and perfectly ‘AM’ guitar solo.
Arctic Monkeys may have moved away from what people are used to, but they still deliver an amazing performance. Alex was his classic charismatic self (singing down the camera for the screens and wiggling his hips to the beat), ‘Mardy Bum’ merged into a Chris Waddle (local footballer) tribute sung to the tune of Winter Wonderland, and despite changes the crowd was still buzzing. I had a great night and I think if people stop complaining and accept the change for what it is, they’d enjoy it a lot more too.