In one of the most hotly anticipated tours in recent memory, Sheffield Indie legends make their triumphant return to Manchester for two massive sold out dates at Old Trafford despite competing with Elton John, Coldplay and the football. This article will cover the second date on June 3rd.
Liverpool based band The Mysterines opened the show and they had some hurdles to overcome including an audience that had no interest in seeing anything but Arctic Monkeys as well as the sun which was directly behind the stage and led to some difficulty and frustration seeing them. Despite all this, the band put on a great show full of 70s inspired rock and roll complete with slides and even a violin bow at the very start of the set. There was a good mix of roaring rock ragers and slow spacey mid tempo tracks that work best to sway to.
The problem being an opener for a show this size is that you’ll always attract audience members that are only taking their kids or dragged along early by friends or people who were just here for Arctic Monkeys and thought of the support as an obstacle. It’s disappointing that more people weren’t invested in their set, they were really good and while it wasn’t the roaring arena start most had hoped for, at least they found some new fans later down the road.
The Hives were next, just a week after their date at Live at Leeds festival and their set was largely the same but it was so good, it was worth seeing twice. Frontman Howlin’ Pelle was back talking immense amounts of nonsense but all of it sounded so fresh and lively that it became a high point in the set. The band had so many massive bangers that have dominated rock playlists for decades like Main Offender and Hate to Say I Told you So both of which translated perfectly into a live setting or it would have if the crowd were awake.
The Hives started to gradually win people over towards the back with the infectious yet simple Come On or the raucous Tick Tick Boom which is a modern masterpiece of a rock song and having heard it live twice in one week has been an incredible experience. Perhaps years of going to shows full of passionate music fans have ruined me or perhaps this show was just too much of a status symbol event but the crowd really were disappointing and that goes a long way in a concert experience. I mean how the hell can you stay sat down during Tick Tick Boom?
The entire audience woke up from their coma once Arctic Monkeys came on and once they started playing rock club classic Mardy Bum, the entire audience lost its collective mind. Everywhere you looked there were people singing along to every single word of every single song and that energy carried on through the rest of the set.
Arctic Monkeys set was made up of all time classics and even some moments of “oh my god, I forgot about this absolute eternal banger” like the the speed limit breaking classic Brainstorm, the endlessly slick swagger of Fluorescent Adolescent, the laid back yet depressingly relatable Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High and probably the most recent guitar riff to fight it’s way into rock and roll history, Do I Wanna Know?.
Any other band would feel a divide between fans, the youthful punky ragers and the more mature slower Prog inspired tracks. There’s not a lot of crossover between Four out of Five and Teddy Picker but the crowd was here for absolutely everything, even the divisive tracks from their most recent album The Car.
Alex Turner is a really unique character in the rock pantheon, he doesn’t say much throughout the set and opts for an admirable approach of letting the music speak for him with his unique almost voice which sounds like Geddy Lee from Rush at times. Arctic Monkeys playing stadiums of this magnitude was inevitable but they fit the atmosphere so well, they’d long since been shifting into an Electric Light Orchestra type band as their music became more experimental and moved away from the youthful tracks about partying which is to be expected as you get older.
The slower moments like There’d Better be a Mirrorball, which actually featured a mirrorball on stage, made for welcome breaks to just sway to and made use of Alex Turner’s soothing and gentle voice. Arabella was the highlight of these moments because it shifted energy dramatically at certain points, keeping people on their toes as it went from soft gentle intros to Black Sabbath riffing in no time at all.
Arctic Monkeys started the transition into becoming a 70s Prog rock band a few years back and there’s some unconventional songwriting decisions throughout their career but the one that really caught my attention was Star Treatment, which was dedicated to Ben. The Hammond organ was the lead instrument and it had this ethereal elevator music kind of feel like it was playing in some other worldly waiting room. That may sound like it’s a bad thing but it’s truly an amazing track.
The encore started with Sculptures of Anything Goes which was a bold choice considering it’s an electronic tinged slow burn. There’s a strange tension to this track and it’s very reminiscent of 70s Prog rock with its use of synth. It was a weird choice to open the encore with but then the two biggest songs in the back catalogue showed up.
I Bet That You Look Good on the Dance floor and R U Mine made for a glorious end to an amazing experience and made for fantastic music to run to the exit to. Thousands of people were already rushing towards the exit to beat the crowd and for some, the most hectic experience leaving Manchester had begun but at least they had some incredible memories to accompany them on the way home. I definitely did.
This was an incredible show from the start and it’s unfortunate that the audience slept in and missed The Hives and The Mysterines but I suppose that’s a side effect of having an audience composed of 40 year olds with their children and drunken adult children. Maybe next time they’ll bring the energy for the whole show instead of just saving it for Arctic Monkeys.
Words by Dale Unsworth
Photos by Chris Ryan