Music Features

Arctic Monkeys: Live at Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield

I’ve lived in Sheffield for a little over thirteen years now and in that time I’ve witnessed some extraordinary spectacles at the city’s largest indoor venue. Sadly, none of these have involved live music. In fact, prior to tonight, the most enjoyable performance I’d experienced in the Motorpoint Arena came from Coldplay, a band I don’t even like.

Arctic Monkeys used to be another band I didn’t particularly like, yet here I am on a chilly Monday night in November, sitting on my own in the upper tier of this soulless amphitheatre, waiting to watch them perform a sell-out hometown show to thousands of adoring fans. But I’m not here to put the boot it; over the last five years, starting with Alex Turner side-project, The Last Shadow Puppets, gathering pace with 2009’s excellent Humbug, and culminating with this year’s 10/10 rated AM, Arctic Monkeys have just about won me over. I’m here to be entertained.

The set begins in explosive fashion as the tantalising riff of Do I Wanna Know? is transformed into a monstrous wall of sound; its chorus, arguably a minor letdown in an otherwise great song on record, sounds absolutely gigantic, too. As swathes of yellow light illuminate the frenzied standing section, the travails of a long Monday at work already seem pleasantly distant. Sadly, they’re brought sharply back into focus with the tiresome Brianstorm, which for my money is still the worst single Arctic Monkeys have ever released. Not that anyone else complains; the vast majority of tonight's ecstatic crowd is only minutes into a maniacal neighbour-hugging, camera-phone waving grin that will last for the entire duration of the band’s set.

Dancing Shoes and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair are an immediate improvement. Teddy Picker is better still, although it still reminds me of Prefab Sprout’s The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Crying Lightning follows, which means all five albums have been covered in the space of six songs. How’s that for range?

The midsection of the set is a little subdued; only the classic-rock aping Arabella (topped off with a smile-raising snippet of Sabbath’s War Pigs) and breakout single I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor really leap out. In stark contrast, the final third is a well earned victory lap, which sees the band racing through some of their finest moments (Fluorescent Adolescent, Mardy Bum, I Wanna Be Yours) to a suitably rapturous response.

I last saw Arctic Monkeys live in 2007 at the city's considerably smaller Leadmill. They were debuting material from Favourite Worst Nightmare and appeared visibly nervous. Alex Turner was a reserved, slightly uncomfortable frontman back then, but he’s since blossomed into a full-on rock star. Yes, the moves are a little clichéd, but there are very few rock bands playing music of this standard to arena audiences in 2013, so we may as well enjoy the whole package.

If I could have my cake and eat it, I’d love to transport this mature, confident version of Arctic Monkeys, now armed with a catalogue of songs that I mostly like, back to a small, sweaty club venue with no corporate banners, reasonably priced beer, and a blanket ban on people waving camera phones in the air. That would be amazing. As far as live music at the Motorpoint Arena goes, however, tonight was undoubtedly good enough to knock Coldplay off their perch, and for that I rejoice.