Turner and company come to rule the Roundhouse...
Arctic Monkeys at iTunes Festival 2013

“Good evening folks, we’re the Arctic Monkeys from High Green.”

Alex Turner’s cordial introductory quip, preceding the unleashing of ‘Brianstorm’, might seem typical of the man and his band, but tonight’s iTunes Festival performance marks the beginning of a new chapter in the career of this Sheffield-spawned act.

On this day, September 6th, Arctic Monkeys’ fifth studio LP, ‘AM’, is released. And its makers take every opportunity to showcase their latest offerings. Tonight’s opener is the new record’s own curtain-up, ‘Do I Wanna Know?’.

Other new numbers follow, the funky ‘Fireside’ joined by the cooed ‘On The Road’ and ‘Arabella’, the latter possessing a truly high-octane chorus. But there’s time, too, for old classics: the foursome pulls out the pulsating ‘Dancing Shoes’ and the pounding ‘Old Yellow Bricks’ from their catalogue.

The crowd responds, swarming to wherever Turner steps, arms aloft casting snakepit shadows onto the walls during ‘Pretty Visitors’ and the front rows moshing throughout ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’.

All the while, the man on stage is the most expressive we’ve seen him in a long time, albeit possibly with a little help from some friends. It’s an odd balance, though.

We’re used to seeing Turner maintain a suave demeanor whilst he plays conductor to a pit of feral gig-goers. Tonight, however, it’s almost roles reversed. There are sporadic breaks amongst the crowd, but it never really gets going. It culminates in Turner forgetting the lyrics to part of set closer ‘505’.

But where many successful acts fade or attempt to replicate previous glories, Arctic Monkeys continue to grow, conquering new ground every time. ‘AM’ (Clash review) is a record that stands almost as tall as their debut did eight years ago.

So tonight’s not your usual Monkeys gig, yet plays out in a distinctly, albeit strangely entertaining way. The new songs sound great, and Turner is really relishing his frontman role.

Whether he’s just drunk or under the influence of something else isn’t something for this critic to speculate on, but he manages to be both amusing and cool at the same time. And besides, we can’t really have this generation’s rock ‘n’ roll icons firmly on the wagon, can we?

The Arctics are ably supported at this iTunes Festival-cum-album launch show by the excellent, also-from-Sheffield Drenge. ‘Bloodsports’ is relentless, and when frontman Eoin Loveless introduces ‘Face Like A Skull’ as “poppy”, the description is an entirely relative one. Keep your eyes on Drenge, as they’ve the potential to rise up the ranks in a fashion not so dissimilar to their headlining townsfolk.

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Words: Luke Nightingale

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