Arctic Monkeys at the O2: Don’t believe the hype? (Review)
The O2 Arena, London, 10th September 2018
For many young British adults, the Arctic Monkeys have a spell-binding aura of both familiarity and yet-lingering mystique about them. They are a band that we’ve all grown up listening to, watching them rise and rise as we ourselves have grown up in parallel. It feels like we should know what’s coming, before they then surprise the world with “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino”. As such, it would have been easy to expect perhaps too much from their residence in London’s O2 which ends tonight (Sep 13). Yet, Sheffield’s finest gave us everything we’ve come to expect from Britain’s premier rock icons.
“TBH+C” is now over four months old, meaning enough time has passed for its songs to now be well-incorporated into the setlist. “Star Treatment” is a fitting start, opening the show as it does the album. Alex Turner’s musing that he ‘just wanted to be one of The Strokes’ reverberates around the arena with the gravitas of a well-travelled performer reflecting on a storied career that still has many unwritten chapters.
The stage design, particularly the tablet-shaped overhead lighting, bring a warmth to the stage that – indeed – project the vibe of a crooner in a hotel bar whiling away at the ivory. The big fancy cube shines like a disco ball or fuzzy dice leading the way.
Indeed, all of the performances from “TBH+C” provide a welcome juxtaposition to the parade of riotous hits from previous albums that ensues. Part of what makes a great concert is how the setlist is built, interweaving older and newer material to tell the story of an entire career (or, in this case, four) to that point. For example, “Snap Out of It” doesn’t feel out of place before “Crying Lightning” as the first section closes with the famously-boisterous ending to “505”.
The middle section, however, is built around one or two too many songs that aren’t quite established enough as go-to songs from the repertoire for them to carry a set by themselves. There are just too many of them in a row that may or may not become live staples, but it is too soon for them right now.
That said, cult favourite “Cornerstone” still revitalises the 20,000 Londoners who live out the song’s yearnful lyrics in unison, kicking off an “AM”-heavy final stretch that finishes with everyone in shock that it’s already been an hour and a half and that it’s time for Turner and co to make their first bows. They return with the stage lights raving alongside us to the seminal “Dancefloor” and sultry “Arabella”, the encore full of iconic riffs and show-stealing solos. Before we know it, Turner asks “R U Mine?” with the answer as loud as it is affirmative.