Arctic Monkeys came back in May this year with their highly anticipated 6th studio album; ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. Receiving mixed reviews and a lot of fans being quite unforgiving about the U turn in musical direction. I initially disliked the album but after several listens, a few songs grew on me and I was really excited to see the band last night. Crushed by my own high expectations, I felt great surges of disappointment throughout last nights performance at TRNMST.
It’s quite hard not to be a stereotypical twat but the Arctic Monkeys’ earlier stuff has my heart – there you go, I said it. Maybe I’m bound by musical nostalgia and my brain’s got stuck on the songs I obsessed over during my early twenties – who knows? What I do know is that this band played the soundtrack to the most vital and momentous years of my life – so of course my hearts got a special place for those first two albums. Am I against progression? Change? Not at all, but I am not feeling this turn of the wheel and it’s very likely that this review is going to cause mass upset and major unrest amongst avid Arctic Monkeys fans. Many of those fans hate any criticism aimed at their beloved Alex Turner with his egotistical, creative flair. I’ll get that straight right now, I’m not criticising that. It’s quite admirable to have the guts to take that chance and if Alex wants to fall down the rabbit hole again for the next ten, twenty years he can be my guest but please when headlining major festivals give the fans what they want. Here is where my qualms start, you aren’t playing an Arctic Monkeys gig where people may appreciate being hit by this musical curveball, you are playing a festival where people want to dance sing and enjoy themselves. It is one where fans have paid a bloody fortune to attend and nothing is more gutting than walking out on the last night feeling deflated.
That’s what annoys me, here’s one of the biggest rock bands in the world with an extensive catalogue of festival bangers that could quite easily have left you walking out of that festival happy and high. Instead, they chose to play a set list that didn’t have the continual energy or the ability to appeal to masses of drunken, high spirited, festival-goers. What had been a weekend of glorious music, drunken revelry and sunshine, was finished by a band that, out of respect for the past, I feel, are currently getting away with murder. Once a Sheffield lad with the city running through his veins, Alex Turner’s singing voice sounded a bit off as well, maybe it’s the Transatlantic twang but it definitely had me stood there thinking… What. The. Fuck! Do you know that ever since this album was released, I’ve not been able to escape the thought that Mr Turner could quite possibly be fucking with us all and is sat laughing hilariously as people struggle to try and understand just what the hell is going on.
The band chose a poor set list structure that took us on a roller-coaster of up and downers – the overall vibe of the set was a slow paced one. The band kicked off with ‘Four Stars Out Of Five’ which was well received, anticipation was high and people were raring to go. ‘Brianstorm’ was up next and elevated the performance considerably with neurotic guitars and relentless drums which I did enjoy. Evoking some welcome nostalgia was ‘View From The Afternoon’ which had the crowd erupting again into a frenzy was a highlight and most likely my favourite. Next up was ‘Arabella’ with choppy guitars and a chunky rhythm section which failed to impress me. That was followed by a dreary ‘Crying Lightning’. As much as it was nice to hear ‘Do Me A Favour’, ‘Teddy Picker’ and ‘Why Dya Only Call Me When You’re High’ it was after this, that for me, the momentum slipped and people starting to head out. Speaking to the crowds afterwards, it was clear that fans were craving hits from their earlier albums like ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’, ‘Leave Before The Lights Come On’ and ‘Balaclava’, yet popular bangers were over-shadowed by ‘Knee Socks’, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ and a painfully slow ‘One Point Perspective’. I felt at this point like I was forcing myself to enjoy it because after all it is the ‘Arctic Monkeys‘ a band I’d idolised throughout my twenties but for me the boredom was inescapable. The gigs were that good back then that I even travelled abroad to watch them! After last nights performance I don’t even think I’d go and watch them at Sheffield Arena which is on my doorstep.
We’d headed out of the pit by this point, stopping halfway to seize the chance to witness a memorable moment with the appearance of Miles Kane, who had played an energetic and enjoyable set earlier in the day. He joined the band on stage for ‘505’ but it failed to take flight and we carried on walking. Here’s where the crowd started to thin out. What had the potential to be a massive, memorable moment was wasted by a poor song choice. I love ‘505’ it is one of my favourite tracks but I don’t want to hear it when the suns setting at one of the best new festivals in the UK and I’ve had half a bottle of Captain Morgan’s. The band certainly failed to keep interest through some of their less well-known new and older material and people were leaving before the encore had even started.
The encore consisted of ‘Star Treatment’, ‘From Ritz To Rubble’ and ending on ‘R U Mine’ but by this time we were already on our way back to the hotel, while drowning in a sea of disillusionment. The iconic Sheffield rockers who I once idolised have definitely lost their appeal as one of the best live bands that I ever saw in my twenties. ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ has without a doubt been the band’s least effective album when translated to the live arena.
EDIT: 02/07/18 19.48pm I watched footage of the three encore songs before writing this piece and also had two reviewers on site who I conversed with prior to writing.
Photo credit: Press/Zachary Michael