The Coral, Amy Winehouse, and Arctic MonkeysEdit this event
There is no romance around Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Among the estimated 50k punters there are plenty of scummy men, making wanking motions as they gesticulate at the VIPs up in the seated pavilion. Red-faced and pissed out of their heads, they spill beer over themselves because they’re no longer able to control their own limbs. Occasionally, a glance around the chaotic arena even reveals some blokes unashamedly relieving themselves into the paper beer cups because the queue for the toilet is too unbearable. All this and it’s still broad daylight.
There’s more than a degree of irony at play here. The dour universe that inspired the Arctic Monkeys to portray with such wit and vigour has actually come back to haunt and even worship them. All the characters that Turner and co. ran from and parodied in their songs are here today - from the wannabe Beckhams with diamond earrings and fake tans to the topless beer guzzlers who are up for a long afternoon of drinking and football chants, while secretly harbouring the desire to round it off with a good fight.
With this in mind, the cocksure reputation of support act Amy Winehouse doesn’t really stand up. Dressed in a yellow top, the little ray of sunshine actually looks quite demure and tiny as she belts out her set. Maybe it’s because she’s been placed so far down the bill, but she’s disarmingly melancholy, and when the big screen zooms into her sad, watery eyes during 'Rehab', you actually feel a little concerned for her. But what Winehouse lacks in stage presence and charisma she makes up for with her faultless voice and a rousing version of The Zutons' 'Valerie'.
On paper, The Coral are more in line with the tastes of the Monkeys’ crowd and with their new album Roots and Echoes imminent, there’s a sense of freshness to their performance. However, it’s not until they play 'Dreaming of You' and 'In The Morning' that the crowd really seem to wake up and start bouncing in unison. But by the time they hit their stride, penultimate act, Supergrass are already warming up.
The reason as to why the Britpop boys are so high up on the bill becomes clear by the time they’ve played their set. Aside from three brand new songs, you suddenly realise that you are intimately aware of their entire back catalogue. Even the band seem surprised by the reception they received. During a particularly thumping rendition of 'Moving', Gaz Coombes barely brings his gaze out from underneath his white trilby - terrified that by looking at the throng of pogo-ing fans he may suddenly curse things. Even though they lose a little pace during the closing 'Pumpin' on Your Stereo', Camp Supergrass have had a much needed boost of confidence.
And so to the main attraction - with Glastonbury behind them, it appears that the Arctic Monkeys have reached the summit and now everything else is a bonus. Whereas two years ago, when the band made their debut at The Ritz in Manchester, Alex Turner prowled the stage with suspicion - paranoid that a bunch of complete strangers knew every word to his songs. Nowadays, the whole band is much more relaxed. They know that this audience is here for them and no one needs to be convinced of their power.
Opening with 'Fluorescent Adolescent' it’s a gentle start that is knocked on the head by the grinding frenzy of 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'. All the pent-up excitement of the day blows up and mass insanity ensues with the moshpit becoming a WWF ring. Banter is kept to a minimum, aside from some predictable jokes about Yorkshire versus Lancashire. However, just like their gig at The Ritz, being at the top of your game doesn’t necessarily save you from glitches and half way through 'Balaclava', the sound completely cuts out. It was the closest the event came to being an almighty balls-up as the band, clearly unaware of the problem thanks to their in-ear monitors carried on right until the end of the song. Even the wave of booing from around the ground didn’t seem to alert Turner and co. to what was happening until flustered engineers ran on stage to fix leads and wires.
It’s disappointing because although the band ripped through their set with precision and energy, beside this hiccup, there was nothing to mark this event out from the myriad of big gigs that the band have played and will continue to play. There were no cover versions or guest appearances and the only surprise in the set was the inclusion of b-side 'Plastic Tramp'. Clearly, no one expects Bono-like declarations of world peace or fancy showmanship but some sense of occasion was needed. But for now, these punch-in-the-gut ditties of modern life will keep fans happy. Although Favourite Worst Nightmare has had three months to live and breathe in people’s record collections, it’s still the songs from their debut – 'Fake Tales of San Francisco', 'Mardy Bum' and 'When The Sun Goes Down' – that inspire the fans' adoration. And as the band close with 'A Certain Romance', they couldn’t have picked a better soundtrack for the behaviour down on the ground.
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