“Oh, in five years time, will it be, ‘Who the fuck’s Arctic Monkeys?’” A question almost two decades old has long lost its relevance as the band firmly enters a “new golden age”. With a fan following impossible of comprehension and sold-out arena tours worldwide, Arctic Monkeys had cast their indelible shadow on guitar music and now look far beyond.
Concluding their five-month global tour, the band graced the stages of both Dublin and Belfast for their final set of performances. Given the unfortunate cancellation of their Marlay Park show this summer, the Arctic Monkeys’ return to Ireland was a source of relief for many fans. As the doors opened to Dublin’s 3Arena, anticipation hung in the air as the venue filled with indie sleaze.
The evening was ignited by the swaggering presence of Miles Kane. Considering the strong friendship between Kane and Alex Turner, not to mention Kane being a big enough name for his own arena tours, it felt like a perfect pairing. Donning a retro Irish football shirt, he set the stage alight with a high-energy performance of crowd favourites ‘Come Closer’, ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’, and ‘Rearrange’. Kane’s curtain came down, revealing the ambient glow of the Monekys’ portal backdrop.
Arctic Monkeys opened with the brooding, bass-heavy tones of ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’, driven by drum machine beats that evoke shades of Portishead gun-fire pulsations. Regardless of personal opinions on their new album, it is undeniable that this prowling beast isn’t an almost perfect opening track, only heightened by the addition of a string section. Arms held out wide, Turner held the audience in the palm of his hands before unleashing the hell-raising ravages of ‘Brianstorm’.
Adorned in his opened shirt and black blazer, borrowed from Nick Cave, Turner effortlessly swayed between the sultry croons of tracks like ‘Snap Out Of It’ and the menacing Josh Homme-inspired riffs of ‘Don’t Sit Down, ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’.
Throughout the night, the entire band played with a combination of ferocity and an intoxicating charm. Drummer Matt Helders moved from the gentlest of rhythms to raining down pummelling blows on his kit. Guitarist Jamie Cook and bassist Nick O’Malley painted the air with unforgettable riffs like ‘Teddy Picker’ and ‘Crying Lightning’. Meanwhile, Turner’s vocal delivery wove through melodies, purposefully meandering, perhaps a conscious effort not to be drowned out by the tens of thousands singing every word back at him.
The setlist was filled with their greatest hits; in fact, it felt more like a celebration of their groundbreaking album ‘AM’ than ‘The Car’, as ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, ‘Arabella’, and ‘Knee Socks’ all followed. While their current sound may be almost unrecognisable from their formative years of ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’, the four Sheffield lads haven’t failed to forget where they’ve come from as the night was doused in nostalgia. The lovesick tale of ‘Cornerstone’ winds on into the maelstrom of ‘The View From The Afternoon’, ‘Pretty Visitors’, and ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’.
After the slow sweeps of ‘There’d Better Be a Mirrorball’, Arctic Monkeys were joined back with their string section for ‘505’ and ‘Do I Wanna Know?’. What lands is a fusion of electronic keys, indie guitars, and grand orchestral layers. Despite the absence of a surprise cameo by Miles Kane, not even for a Last Shadow Puppets tune or two, Turner dedicated the final song, ‘Body Paint’, to his good friend.
A short break, and they were back on stage for their encore, the enchanting ‘Hello You’ opens. Turner sat poised at the piano, the light dancing off the mirror ball, flooding the arena with dancing light. A calming tranquillity which swiftly dissipated as the thunderous notes of ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ blasted through. For their final act, Arctic Monkeys delivered an electrifying crescendo of energy and indie nostalgia, treating the enraptured crowd to an extended rendition of ‘R U Mine?’. Turner, O’Malley, Helders, and Cook, alongside their exceptionally talented backing musicians, bid farewell with riffs that echoed long after the lights dimmed.
With a repertoire that could have easily sustained another 90 minutes, Arctic Monkeys proved, once again, why they stand at the summit of contemporary bands. Amidst the dichotomy of preferences, whether one leans towards the early gritty indie bangers or their more recent foray into 60s-inspired Gainsbourg art-rock, the night shattered the notion of exclusive fandom. It became clear that revelling in the brilliance of both eras is not only attainable but essential to appreciating the band’s journey over the past two decades.