Thursday, 7 July 2011

Arctic Monkeys & Miles Kane at the iTunes Festival, 06/07/2011



Seen as I never win anything, ever, it came as no surprise that I wasn’t lucky enough to get tickets to see Arctic Monkeys as the Camden Roundhouse. But due to live streaming, I experienced the next best thing from the iTunes website (albeit with some delay). I was left very heart warmed, and thought I’d share my views here.


Miles Kane
Taking to stage like a prize fighter, Mr Kane’s sex appeal is slightly hindered by his apparent choice of wearing a bin bag as a top, but we’ll forgive him, as for somebody who only went solo very recently, he has an impressive set list. Ferociously teasing notes out of his guitar like an aggressive lover, Miles certainly adds a sensual appeal to the gaping hole of lad rock left by Messrs Gallagher with “Before It’s Midnight”, and again on the slightly more subtle “My Fantasy” and album title track “Colour Of The Trap”.

However, it is interesting to note that despite being solo in name, he still holds a sort of reliance on his very tight live band, perhaps suggesting that he will always rely on a live gang dynamic. His early songs are seemingly lost on crowd, until he hits the spectacular riffery of “Rearrange”, the closest he has to a bona fide summer anthem with its ‘Let it out, Let it out…’ refrain. The bouncing crowd happily stays strong throughout “Quicksand”, evoking memories of Supergrass with its perky harmonies.

But then it gets dark. “Telepathy” and “Kingcrawler” both seem to have nicked more than a little of Miles mate Alex’s sneaky and mysterious Arctics chords, but both are better for it, coming up somewhere between a bond theme and a carnival ride tune. In this way, he lays down an impressive atmosphere for Arctic Monkeys to come on to, showing he has more up his sleeve than paint by numbers Britpop.


Arctic Monkeys
From the ridiculous choice of walk on music (“You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, perhaps a nod to the Sheffield setting of the film “The Full Monty?”), to double denim clad beefcake Jamie Cook’s strut onstage, to Alex Turner’s Julian Casablancas-esque electric blue leather jacket, one thing is clear. Arctic Monkeys have arrived at the head table of rock. It appears that over the past few years of recording across America, they’ve grown proud of their Northern English heritage, arriving onstage with the simple proclamation "we're Arctic Monkeys... from High Green", and Matt settling himself at Union Jack patterned drums.  Sure, his Champion logo emblazoned jogging bottoms may lower the tone slightly, but who really cares? There’s a crowdsurfer during the first song! A new album track no less! That my friends, is power.

Right from the aural equivalent of a suckerpunch that is opening tracks “Library Pictures” and “Brianstorm”, Matt Helders sticks are on fire - never have this band sounded so agressive. In fact, they appear to be playing faster and harder than ever, Alex wrapping his tongue around the lyrics of “This House is a Circus” and “Pretty Visitors” far more proficiently and eloquently than ever before, spitting out rhymes like a rapper, thrashing his indie boy mop 
of hair about the stage.

This sense of professionalism and a desire to entertain the audience continues in a similar vein throughout the set: you often have to remind yourself that this is not a show being played by robots, just four testosterone fuelled boys (or rather what they’ve now developed into, men). It’s no mean feat for Helders to take lead vocals and drum live on “Brick by Brick”, but he pulls it off with a cheeky smile reminiscent of the one we all fell in love with in the debut “Dancefloor…” video: all in the day job it seems to say, followed by the octopus like sticksmanship of “The View From The Afternoon”, complete with baton twirls and spins like a regular little circus performer.

The plentiful new songs flow seamlessly, obviously well practiced in the light of the bands many summer festival appearances. Quite the opposite from the Humbug era, it’s focused eyes all round, only becks beer on stage, nonsensical banter at a minimum. Hell, Jamie even cracks a smile at the start of “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”. As Alex segues between tracks with radio presenter introductions ("That was from the new Arctic Monkeysalbum 'Suck It And See'. We'll have some more of that later on but for now…"), they always flit between the sarcastic and the sincere, allowing them to be a riveting sight to behold. Awkward or cocky? Will we ever really know?
My only criticism? “All My Own Stunts” perhaps should have been replaced by something more instant (SIAS highlight “That’s Where You’re Wrong” springs to mind), but this can be excused when you are greeted with the beauty of a closing trio that is “Suck It And See”, “Fluorescent Adolescent” and “505”, complete with guest star Miles Kane on guitar.



They know where to pause, where to ebb and flow, where to play the new songs... It appears that Arctic Monkeys may finally have worked out how to thrill a crowd, whilst staying true to themselves (bringing back Teddy Picker in itself is a genius move.) This is a band who finally know what they're focused, have a frontman who has settled into his duty to entertain, and who certainly have plenty more to come.

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