Live Review: Arctic Monkeys // Hillsborough Stadium 10.6.23

Arctic Monkeys, Sheffield. The hometown heroes are back in the steel city for two nights only and are in the midst of their biggest tour yet.

Thus far, Arctic Monkeys have packed out football stadiums up and down the country and left fans endlessly hypothesising about setlists week in, week out. There are very few artists who can command such frenzy amongst online fans but Arctic Monkeys are not just any artist, and this tour certainly feels like them cementing their place amongst music’s elite.

Both Sheffield nights (and the wider tour) have seen AM preceded by The Mysterines and The Hives, both of whom do an exemplary job in the beating sun. Liverpool’s The Mysterines open the show, blowing the sweaty punters away early doors; their brand of no-nonsense rock is refreshing as it is powerful. Huge riffs and a big, meaty rhythm section do a great job of livening up a crowd, many of whom had been queuing in Hillsborough park for upwards of 12 hours prior to the band taking to the stage. Swedish mainstays The Hives kick the evening up a notch, with frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist whipping the crowd up with ease – this band are seasoned professionals and have a fantastic live act; to see them tearing it up and running around with such energy on the hottest weekend of the year is nothing short of astounding.

Finally, it’s time for Arctic Monkeys. A mammoth crowd awaits them for their first hometown show since 2019’s Tranquility Base tour, and their largest Sheffield show since the Don Valley Bowl headline in 2011. That 20,000-capacity venue is doubled by Hillsborough Park, and 80,000 people over two nights lap up every moment of the Monkeys. Twitter fan circles have been going crazy around what track AM will open with, and the band have been switching it up every night: Friday saw the band begin the show with fan favourite ‘A Certain Romance’, which, as expected sent the Hillsborough Park crowd into near meltdown. Not only is the cut one of those ‘lump in the throat’ tunes which would spark emotion in even the most cold-hearted music fan, but Arctic Monkeys haven’t played the tune since 2013. A decade later, the track hits just as hard and set the scene for a magical homecoming.

Both evenings have been peppered with hits: ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ features on both setlists, as does ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and, of course, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. Humbug classic ‘Crying Lightning’ rears its head on both evenings; one of many tunes that have a revised arrangement. Played at regular speed throughout, the group slow to half pace for the song’s guitar solo, before kicking back into gear for the final passage. Tranquility’s ‘Four Out of Five’ also gets rearranged, with some added bongos and a bossa nova-style groove throughout. Frontman Alex Turner has made a habit of singing off the beat since the lounge-lizard-chic mood arrived with Tranquility Base. He manages to deliver his lines about half a second later than he should, but the crooned delivery works beautifully. Turner’s voice has aged like a fine wine, allowing him to belt out some seriously impressive notes across the back catalogue, but most prominently in some of the newer gear.

‘Arabella’ is a notable highlight. “The horizon tries but it’s just not as kind on the eye as Arabella,” Alex professes as the blistering sun sets over the Hillsborough skyline, turning the sky a remarkable orange. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ Is a superb moment in the set, where Turner finds himself sat behind the piano for an impromptu jam. “I wanna sit down in Sheffield”, Turner drawls over his own piano-led arrangement, before the band ease into an updated introduction to the song. This is commonplace from AM on this tour: they can’t seem to help themselves and breakout into little jams between songs, jams which have been worked into fresh introductions to classic Monkeys hits. These little flourishes help to pace the set beautifully, and at no point is there any sonic whiplash as they switch from fast-paced early tunes, through to broody Humbug numbers, moody AM tunes and songs about taco restaurants on the moon, for that matter.

These new arrangements, the special interludes and Turner’s enigmatic quality as a frontman truly represent a band cementing themselves as musical icons. Of all the great British bands, how many of them could make Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not and The Car in the same career? One of the most charming and enjoyable parts of the show is listening to the crowds bellow the riffs of Arctic Monkeys tunes like a football terrace. ‘Mardy Bum’, ‘Brianstorm’, and ‘Do I Wanna Know’ got the riff-singing treatment. Other greats may boast an expansive discography of sounds, but it seems unlikely that anyone is howling the guitar components to Radiohead‘s ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ back at Thom Yorke as though the riffs themselves were staples of the national songbook.

‘Body Paint’ is a late high point, and is probably the high watermark of the entire show. The cut is pure Bowie, and sounds like something straight out of his Bowie at the Beeb sessions. Again, the live version has an extended outro, which sees Turner marching around the stage: Epiphone Coronet guitar in hand. Slamming his hands down the keys of the various Wurlitzers. Delivering glissando after glissando. Building the track to a simply unreal fever pitch.

Overall this performance, much like the previous evening’s, has been truly special, and a fitting showcase for one of (if not the) best British band in action. Glastonbury is mere days away, and ticket holders are bound to be in for a monumental treat.

Author avatar
Charlie Brock

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