Dorothy was right, though

Monk
Arctic Monkeys, Astoria, London, April 13, 2007
It’s funny, I mentioned to one of the producers on Simon Mayo’s show today (on which I was filling in for Mark Kermode) that I was off to see Arctic Monkeys tonight, and he responded, “Why on earth would you want to do that?” It’s amazing how some people just take against them. I still love them, and tonight was the seventh time we’ve seen them. What was strange about tonight’s gig – sold out, obviously, since the demand for tickets for their current, all-too-modest UK tour far outstrips supply – was that the album from which most of the set was taken is not yet released, and thus, nobody knows the songs. This has never happened before, because even before Whatever People Say I Am Etc. was released, the fans knew every word to every song due to the sharing of the demos. Certain new numbers have been added to the setlist in the meantime to keep us on our toes, but by and large, a gig has been a communal experience. Tonight, the difference in reaction to old songs versus new was marked.

Choice cuts from the first album (Still Take You Home, Dancefloor, A Certain Romance, Sun Goes Down, Mardy Bum, Dancing Shoes) were greeted like old friends ie. with thrown beer. (Do you greet old friends by throwing beer at them?) The new stuff, barring the public domain-residing Brianstorm, went out unsung, which was an almost eerie experience at an Arctic Monkeys show. I know it’s a media privilege, but having had the album in heavy rotation for some weeks now, it was a real treat to hear such in-house and in-car favourites as Balaclava, Do Me A Favour and If You Were There, Beware live – they reproduced every guitar subtlety with amazing precision, and it was interesting to see how the duties were split between Alex and Jamie, with Alex taking on much of the detail. He’s quite the musical genius. Shame not to hear The Only Ones Who Know, 505 or Fluorescent Adolescent, but they only play for just over an hour, with no encores, so you have to be grateful for how much they do cram in, especially with two full albums to draw from now. Mark my words, by the time of the festivals, the crowd will have even the tongue-twister lyrics to Teddy Picker down pat. And the line, “Dorothy was right, though” (or “Dorofy was right, vo,” as Alex sings it) will be a communal cry. Can’t wait to see them at Glastonbury. On the telly.

A word about the venue: the Astoria, home to the Monkeys’ coming-out ball, may be historic for them, but it’s not a patch on Brixton – which, of course, they could have filled for at least a week – and standing towards the back downstairs, the sound was muddy and undynamic. Perhaps it sounded fuller upstairs, where I hope and assume people were having a better time than those on the guest balcony, who seemed immobile.

A word about the fans: are they becoming complacent about this band’s brilliance? Although fervour and beer met the old songs, it didn’t look half as mad and dangerous in the mosh pit tonight. We’ve been in the thick of the maeslstrom at the Sheffield Octagon and Brixton, and nothing like that seemed to be generated at the Astoria. Perhaps the real hardcore fans have moved away? Perhaps, due to the lottery system for ticket application, many of the hardcore simply didn’t get tickets. Either way, it’s a slightly diluted hysteria. Again, perhaps knowledge of the new songs will change all that once the album’s out. I’m really glad we went to pay our respects, and there’s little doubting the strength and variety of these dynamic new songs – nor the copper-bottomed classic status of the old ones. Arctic Monkeys really are an uncommonly gifted band, technically and creatively. If not yet in terms of showmanship. They began bang on time at 9pm – no showbiz fucking around for these young men – and with a plain backdrop, basic lighting and little in the way of repartee, they banged through 60 minutes of tight, singalong rock music, interrupted only by a green t-shirt thrown onto the stage, which landed over Alex’s mic. Not a night of surprises, but one free of bullshit. All hail.

Here’s my review of Favourite Worst Nightmare.

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18 thoughts on “Dorothy was right, though

  1. I’m an Arctic Monkeys virgin in terms of seeing them live, so I’ve took the rather precarious step of buying a ticket for one of the up-coming gigs at Old Trafford (Cricket, not football, ground).I got a copy of the new album last week from a journalist friend, and I have to say it’s a bit of a mixed bag to my ears.I like ‘Only Ones Who Know’, which reminds me of ‘I Know It’s Over’ off ‘The Queen Is Dead’ for some reason. ‘Do Me A Favour’ and ‘If You Were There, Beware’ are also firm favourites. And the ‘This House Is A Circus’ line with the swear word is still making me smile. As a Yorkshire lad myself, I’m sure I’ve had something like a fight in a kebab shop or a city centre arrest described to me in similar terms! There doesn’t seem to be any stand out singles to me, with the album working well as an album, but with nothing incredible jumping out!‘The thugs help the thieves as they are trying to rob the words from a gob’ is a great line and I have to say the new album does have some great lyrics. After the rock intro, ‘If You Were There, Beware’ also sounds like The Smiths to me.

  2. I’m an Arctic Monkeys virgin in terms of seeing them live, so I’ve took the rather precarious step of buying a ticket for one of the up-coming gigs at Old Trafford (Cricket, not football, ground).I got a copy of the new album last week from a journalist friend, and I have to say it’s a bit of a mixed bag to my ears.I like ‘Only Ones Who Know’, which reminds me of ‘I Know It’s Over’ off ‘The Queen Is Dead’ for some reason. ‘Do Me A Favour’ and ‘If You Were There, Beware’ are also firm favourites. And the ‘This House Is A Circus’ line with the swear word is still making me smile. As a Yorkshire lad myself, I’m sure I’ve had something like a fight in a kebab shop or a city centre arrest described to me in similar terms! There doesn’t seem to be any stand out singles to me, with the album working well as an album, but with nothing incredible jumping out!‘The thugs help the thieves as they are trying to rob the words from a gob’ is a great line and I have to say the new album does have some great lyrics. After the rock intro, ‘If You Were There, Beware’ also sounds like The Smiths to me.

  3. Hi Stef, at the end of the live review above I’ve just added a link to my review of the album, which I posted here way too early for the release of the album. I sounds like we’re both hearing the Smiths in there. Half of me would love to see them at a sports ground, half of me wouldn’t. But I hope you enjoy it. The big singalongs should be, as the Americans say, awesome with 50,000 people.

  4. Hi Stef, at the end of the live review above I’ve just added a link to my review of the album, which I posted here way too early for the release of the album. I sounds like we’re both hearing the Smiths in there. Half of me would love to see them at a sports ground, half of me wouldn’t. But I hope you enjoy it. The big singalongs should be, as the Americans say, awesome with 50,000 people.

  5. Mr Collins you spawny git, seventh time! I only went to Reading last year because they were on, albeit as very small points of moving light in the distance.Hopefully I’ll get to see them at Glastonbury for my second time this year.I know what you mean about people instantly taking against them, I know a few people who are like that.

  6. Mr Collins you spawny git, seventh time! I only went to Reading last year because they were on, albeit as very small points of moving light in the distance.Hopefully I’ll get to see them at Glastonbury for my second time this year.I know what you mean about people instantly taking against them, I know a few people who are like that.

  7. Hi Andrew, thanks for the entirely unsolicited comment on my blog 🙂 I can remain smug in the knowledge I have a celebrity blog buddy and that I would never kill mice.

  8. Hi Andrew, thanks for the entirely unsolicited comment on my blog 🙂 I can remain smug in the knowledge I have a celebrity blog buddy and that I would never kill mice.

  9. Is the sharing of lead guitar duties down to the age-old problem that a lot of good guitarists find it difficult to play lead guitar and sing at the same time? It must be hard for Alex to find places to breathe, let alone think about what his fingers are doing.

  10. Is the sharing of lead guitar duties down to the age-old problem that a lot of good guitarists find it difficult to play lead guitar and sing at the same time? It must be hard for Alex to find places to breathe, let alone think about what his fingers are doing.

  11. I’m glad it’s not only me, I’ve seen them eight times to date and as our forthcoming “vacation” to the States appears to coincide with their tour you can add another 3, including (not so fake tales of) San Francisco.

  12. I’m glad it’s not only me, I’ve seen them eight times to date and as our forthcoming “vacation” to the States appears to coincide with their tour you can add another 3, including (not so fake tales of) San Francisco.

  13. just a side issue here.As a 45 yr old fart who despite two children, my own business (hotel and restaurant) and a fairly serious rural location, (the wilds of West Dorset), I with a slightly older fart mate of mine try to get to the occasional gig in say Exeter, Plymouth or Bristol which are on the circuit for most average to above average size band.Now then can someone explain to me at what point in the last few years did1. students ceremoniously queue for 45 minutes to buy a pint of pissy overpriced beer only to throw it and the plastic pisspot its served in over the thirty or so people in front of them as soon as the band come onand 2.Bands, and Im talking to you Primal Scream and yes you lot as well Kings of Leon jump on stage rattle through one and a half albums worth of stuff, do an obligatory three song encore and then piss off onto the tour bus heading for the next provincial shithole leaving the poor punter being shoved out onto the street by a security operative at 10.35 pm.Call that a fuckin night out???.Andrew you sound like you are happy with the Monkeys playing a mere hour for £25 At least the pistols let you know they were shafting you.

  14. just a side issue here.As a 45 yr old fart who despite two children, my own business (hotel and restaurant) and a fairly serious rural location, (the wilds of West Dorset), I with a slightly older fart mate of mine try to get to the occasional gig in say Exeter, Plymouth or Bristol which are on the circuit for most average to above average size band.Now then can someone explain to me at what point in the last few years did1. students ceremoniously queue for 45 minutes to buy a pint of pissy overpriced beer only to throw it and the plastic pisspot its served in over the thirty or so people in front of them as soon as the band come onand 2.Bands, and Im talking to you Primal Scream and yes you lot as well Kings of Leon jump on stage rattle through one and a half albums worth of stuff, do an obligatory three song encore and then piss off onto the tour bus heading for the next provincial shithole leaving the poor punter being shoved out onto the street by a security operative at 10.35 pm.Call that a fuckin night out???.Andrew you sound like you are happy with the Monkeys playing a mere hour for £25 At least the pistols let you know they were shafting you.

  15. Well, Birmingham last night was lovely; I was perfectly happy with my hour or so, thank you (it’s quality, not quantity, Ian, & at least you don’t miss your train home). They were excellent & the atmosphere was great, though affectionate rather than manic & the crowd was noticeably older (I guess that is the £20 a ticket). Oh & we got 505… anyone who thinks Al Turner should go in for proper ‘showmanship’, whatever that is (usually I find such things deep embarrassing, so I’m glad he doesn’t go in for it) should have seen that. Never has a man sung such a beautiful song with so much passion while sitting down playing two notes on the organ (well, he just about managed two whole chords at the point where it all kicks off). Beautiful. Really. Doubters, sceptics, you’re wrong, you know…

  16. Well, Birmingham last night was lovely; I was perfectly happy with my hour or so, thank you (it’s quality, not quantity, Ian, & at least you don’t miss your train home). They were excellent & the atmosphere was great, though affectionate rather than manic & the crowd was noticeably older (I guess that is the £20 a ticket). Oh & we got 505… anyone who thinks Al Turner should go in for proper ‘showmanship’, whatever that is (usually I find such things deep embarrassing, so I’m glad he doesn’t go in for it) should have seen that. Never has a man sung such a beautiful song with so much passion while sitting down playing two notes on the organ (well, he just about managed two whole chords at the point where it all kicks off). Beautiful. Really. Doubters, sceptics, you’re wrong, you know…

  17. Sorry Emily I dont buy that “quality not quantity “line.For ANY band, top notch should be the MINIMUM quality for those prepared to fork out the cost of an evening out (including the cost of overnight stays for those not lucky enough to live on the No 31 bus route )You may well love the monkey boys and i am rather partial to them myself, but £20 notes to a lot of their fans is a big chunk and they deserve something more than a cursory hour.I am not saying its down to the bands, probably more the promoters/club owners/licencing authorities, but it is becoming a cynical rip off and just seems to be accepted without complaint.does nobody care? Are you all prepared to just be shafted in this manner.HELLO???? IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE???…….oh my god Im all alone….HELLOOOO HEEEEEELP

  18. Sorry Emily I dont buy that “quality not quantity “line.For ANY band, top notch should be the MINIMUM quality for those prepared to fork out the cost of an evening out (including the cost of overnight stays for those not lucky enough to live on the No 31 bus route )You may well love the monkey boys and i am rather partial to them myself, but £20 notes to a lot of their fans is a big chunk and they deserve something more than a cursory hour.I am not saying its down to the bands, probably more the promoters/club owners/licencing authorities, but it is becoming a cynical rip off and just seems to be accepted without complaint.does nobody care? Are you all prepared to just be shafted in this manner.HELLO???? IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE???…….oh my god Im all alone….HELLOOOO HEEEEEELP

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