Review: Arctic Monkeys at Echo Arena

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Arctic Monkeys. Pic © Zachery Michael/Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys. Pic © Zachery Michael/Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys made a triumphant return to Liverpool on Monday to play the Echo Arena as their UK tour continues.

The Sheffield four-piece was defining the sound of a generation with their debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ nearly a decade ago and it remains the fastest-selling debut album in British music history.

But in the interim period the ‘Monkeys’ have released an four more albums, conquered the world and transformed themselves from scrappy indie squirts to bona-fide rock legends.

The night kicked off with young Irish whippersnappers The Strypes. Lauded by none other than Elton John himself as the next big thing, the boys packed promise with a Mod revivalist sound, but unfortunately failed to deliver anything other than a one-dimensional, turgid and wholly unappealing set.

As if pub rock courtesy of a bunch of schoolboys wasn’t contrived enough, they continued to dig themselves a hole with no less than three false stops, a feat that would be considered annoying by even the biggest bands, let alone a relatively small-time opener.

Audience indifference turned into active dislike towards the latter half of their set after a lazy attempt to shoehorn in a cover of the late Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed’s classic ‘Perfect Day’, an appallingly puerile effort.

But the day was saved when the Arctic Monkeys finally took to the stage, starting off strong with single ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ from their latest studio offering ‘AM’. Even from the outset it’s obvious that this isn’t the same band that took the airwaves by storm in the early 2000s, but an altogether different beast.

Gone is the scruffy and moody Alex Turner of yore who communicated from the stage in a series of grunts and shuffles, replaced with a swaggering suited-and-booted frontman complete with slicked-back quiff.

The band as a whole were as tight as they’ve ever been and sounded consistent and confident, with particular set highlights including old classics like ‘Dancing Shoes’ alongside more recent offerings like ‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair’.

Arguably the strongest point of the night was a particularly tender slowed-down acoustic version of old classic ‘Mardy Bum’, which hopefully The Strypes were paying attention to as it could teach them a few valuable lessons in dynamics.

Arctic Monkeys 3

Confetti cannons during the closing of Monday night’s Arctic Monkeys gig at the Echo Arena.

The three-song encore included another Lou Reed cover in the form of ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, which thankfully was done properly and appropriately this time around and also featured an appearance from Liverpool’s own local legend, ex-The Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones, who also guested on ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ and ‘Fireside’.

It was at these moments when Ryder-Jones took over the guitar work that Turner’s crooner act wavered dangerously close to being cheesy with just a tad too much Elvis-inspired hip shaking.

Regardless, he managed to pull it off and it’s a welcome change to see an artist previously known for a shy onstage persona finally fill the rockstar boots he deserves.

The entire set concluded with fan favourite ‘R U Mine?’ and clocked in at around an hour and three-quarters, which is not only significantly longer than the last time they played the Echo back in 2011, but also made the ticket price ruddy good value for money.

All in all, the Arctic Monkeys were on top form and seem to have embraced their new showbiz image with aplomb, showing no signs of slowing down and whipping the audience into a fist-pumping singalong frenzy.

Here’s hoping they keep us wearing holes in our dancing shoes for a long time to come.

About Ryan McElroy, JMU Journalism