On the evening before the 20th anniversary of their very first performance, thousands of fans descended on the Swansea.com Stadium for Arctic Monkeys – a far cry from the small Sheffield pub that hosted them in 2003. However, this audience may be polarised – they’ve since departed the fast‘n’loose indie rock for sleek, contemplative, string-heavy numbers, continued on 2022’s album, The Car. In the event, though, all gleefully united as the Arctics refreshed their classics and a plate of new material into prime cuts of stadium rock.
They kicked off proceedings with Brianstorm. In the staccato guitar attack from Jamie Cook, there was no settling in slowly; his lead singer gave it a fair fight, singing over the roar of an audience, hands lifted and shaking. This was apt: Alex Turner, unbuttoned and wearing Ray-Bans, had swaggered onto stage in a manner akin to a boxer. Arctic Monkeys understand that great playing goes a long way towards spectacle.
The remarkable beginning of The View From The Afternoon saw each guitarist slash in a jagged, brutish response to each other. Despite all their grown-up bravado, a delightful hint of their spotty tear-away origins was none more apparent than in the decade-long-retired Mardy Bum, which had lost little of its singalong teenage bounce.
It was a setlist for everyone and impressive for its versatility. Body Paint was a rip-roaring monster, and the response to fan-favourite nocturnal anthem 505 left the usually quiet Turner impressed: “What a wonderful audience!” The representative of 2017’s Tranquillity Base Hotel And Casino was Four Out Of Five; Turner stalked around Bowie-style, unflappable to a quieter reception, and singing beautifully. The stage set has its own ‘Whistle Test lights’, a circular screen backdrop creating a never-ending loop of the band within.
The encore calls were nothing short of earsplitting, and though all around were out of their seats for I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, they chose a new song, Sculptures Of Anything Goes, to return on with a thumping, grasping croon. The rousing evening was a testament to how well Arctic Monkeys have swerved away from becoming their own tribute act and prioritised striding into fresh musical territory.
Arctic Monkeys, Swansea.com Stadium, Mon 12 June
words BILLY EDWARDS photos SWANSEA CITY AFC / ATHENA