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- Arctic Monkeys »
Having spent the afternoon browsing fan site reviews, the consensus on last night in Cardiff was that Arctic Monkeys were nothing short of incredible. While this definitive verdict whets the appetite for tonight's second show, would their collective load have already been spent, leaving us late-comers to pick up a mere been-there-done-that residue?
Not so you'd notice. It's normal to expect a band to edge into a performance but starting with the perfect introduction to all things, _'The View From The Afternoon', followed by _'Brianstorm'_, right from the get-go Arctic Monkeys are perfection on a stick. Theirs is no-frills, edgy pop/rock of the highest order, as many a CD-buyer before me already knows. Not only that, but they look so innocuous on stage, playing their instruments without undue drama; they’re every bit the kind of nice young men that grandmas hope their favourite granddaughters will take a shine to.
Two songs in and they've hit their peak? Surely not, but there's a false start to _'Still Take You Home'_: it collapses to silence, sending a buzz of concern around the room.
_ "Look after yourselves. Somebody's hurt!" shouts Alex Turner after a couple of girls are carried up and over the barrier. From here, though, the band take it from the top once more.
_'Dancing Shoes'_, then _'From The Ritz To The Rubble'_, incites friendly, swaying crowd surfing, with more than one person only visible by the soles of their trainers. We're dancing hard now; jumping up and down wildly and with total glee. (Comfort note to self: should have worn bra.)
_'Teddy Picker'_, with its hugely sing-able lyric, is delivered strong and hard, with precision, and is yet another example of a good band delivering a great song. Some arena acts choose wild video projections, elaborate clothing and _bling_; dancers or any other manner of accoutrement to add to the spectacle. But there are no extras tonight, save a flexible but still fairly basic light show.
_'D is For Dangerous'_ unravels as a sinister film until those flesh-tingling _"laaaa laaaa"_ backing vocals diffuse the tension and the effect is perfectly glorious. A few songs later, and coming as no surprise whatsoever, _'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'_ is the thrill of the night and sets the whole arena leaping with joy. The room has turned into a mass disco with little groups making their own happy little dancing circles, while people smile at each other elatedly. Naturally enough a dip in communal attention, or more probably the sudden arrival of desert thirsts, begins a drift to the bars during the next few songs.
By the time we get to the encore, most of both albums have been heard and it's difficult to envisage what more could be asked for by way of delights. Whatever happens in all our experiences of music, both live and recorded, no amount of posture, flannel or clever affects can disguise or compensate for a lack of quality material. Arctic Monkeys have no such problem, and it's no fluke or clever marketing that sees them shift product the way they do. Turner's inspired, erudite and observationally brilliant lyrics shine a path for the gusty music to follow.
A keyboard arrives on stage and we ready ourselves for the acknowledged sublimity of _'505'_. As it carries in the air, lovers embrace and slow dance as if each had written it specifically for their partners, a scene as unexpected as it is touching. The night then closes perfectly with _'A Certain Romance'_, that like The Streets' _'Weak Become Heroes'_, shifts the pavement view to something far more elevated.
Arctic Monkeys' Cardiff sojourn has been satisfying, edgy and so purely enjoyable, leaving me little choice but to conclude with a cheap but highly apt paraphrase: whatever people say they are, that's what they are.
Photograph by Timm Cleasby
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