Filling the 55,000 capacity Emirates Old Trafford stadium two nights on the trot, Arctic Monkeys keep their crowd engaged with back-to-back bangers, despite minimal chat with the audience. It speaks volumes about the band that their set consisted of consecutive hits, despite several omissions. The band have played the stadium once before, all the way back in 2007 following a triumphant Glastonbury headline spot, and with support from none other than Amy Winehouse.
This time Merseyside rock quartet The Mysterines open for them. The band who have been playing in some formation since 2015, all now in their early 20s, are on an upward trajectory with a critically acclaimed top 10 album under their belt, 2022’s Reeling. They are fronted by Lia Metcalfe, whose deep raspy vocals and clever lyricism are paired with George Favager’s intricate bass lines and Callum Thompson’s crunchy guitar lines. The Mysterines are unafraid to dabble in genres – sometimes steeped in grunge and sometimes invoking blues rock. It’s the sort of music that should be played loud, so projected across the huge stadium, The Mysterines seem very much at home. Stand out tracks ‘In My Head’, ‘Dangerous’, and ‘Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much) shine, along with new single ‘Begin Again’.
An entirely different kind of showmanship is on display from The Hives’ frontman Howlin’ Pele, who is sporting a wound on his forehead after lassoing his mic the previous night backfired. He really gets his teeth into his duty of warming up the crowd. Several times he climbs over the barrier into the front standing section of the stadium to sing with fans. They part like the Red Sea, allowing him to work his way down. Later, he crowd surfs – seemingly unbothered about sustaining a second injury. “We are The Hives and in 30 minutes you will love us.” This much is true.
Arctic Monkeys stride on stage as the sun beats down on the 55,000 strong crowd. They begin their set with the recently unearthed ‘Mardy Bum’ which has not been played properly since 2013 (aside from a verse atop a drum loop on the band’s 2018 tour).
“Greetings!” Alex Turner declares. He is famously a man of few words when it comes to interviews and public appearances, instead allowing the music to do the talking. It’s somewhat ironic for an artist whose enviable and often indecipherable wordsmithery, riddled with metaphors and always wrapped around a carefully contrived rhythm, has come to be the band’s defining feature.
Catapulting straight into the raucous mosh-pit favourite ‘Brianstorm’ – surely one of drumming extraordinaire Matt Helders’ crowning accomplishments – followed by a spirited rendition of ‘Snap Out of It’ and a slightly slowed-down ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’, Arctic Monkeys put on a show that appeals to every listener. The setlist is scattered with flavours of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, through Humbug and AM, to latest LP The Car, demonstrating the band’s evolving yet consistent discography.
Slight variations from the previous night include ‘Pretty Visitors’ (which has been teased with an instrumental on previous dates of the tour), ‘Star Treatment’, and ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.
It is a rare thing to be surrounded by people mouthing every word to every song at a show of this size. Whether it’s the classics like ‘Cornerstone’, ‘Arabella’, and ‘505’ or newer tunes like ‘Four Out of Five’ and ‘Star Treatment’, dedicated to “Ben” with no further explanation given, the crowd cling on, echoing every Turner-ism.
A giant mirror ball levitates down from the stage, ‘MONKEYS’ written across it, as the band play The Car’s poignant lead single, the stunning ‘There’d Better be a Mirrorball’ elevating the already incredible show.
Despite this stadium tour being in support of their seventh LP, tracks from The Car remain few and far between. Having said that, ‘Body Paint’, with its stunning string-supported bridge is selected as a main set closer, whilst ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ with its thunderous foreboding keys generates a suitably hypnotic atmosphere as an encore opener.
Constantly changing and pushing the boundaries both sonically and lyrically, and with a back-catalogue to match, or even supersede the very best in British rock, there should be no mistake: Arctic Monkeys are a once in a generation band.
Remaining tour tickets for Arctic Monkeys are available here.