Mystery JetsEdit this event
My friend recently postulated that the best part of going to a restaurant is not the meal itself, but the anticipation that precedes it. It might seem like it’s taking forever; you might have purposely skimped on lunch in order that you’ll be suitably famished when it arrives; heck, maybe it really is taking forever. But it’s moments such as these those of a certain disposition find most ravishing, most exciting – gracing the main event with feverishly high expectations hopefully met, and a pay-off immeasurably more satisfying when it arrives.
So it is with a gig: the interminable wait between the support act and the headliners; those constant guesses at when the band will appear; the holding of one’s breath between each and every song that trails from from the PA. Tonight, accompanied by said friend to the Sant Jordi Club (less a club, more an arena, nestled in the hills of Montjuic Park near the lavish Olympic Stadium), it’s as if a waiter appeared to politely inform us that everything we ordered had been abruptly taken off the menu and in fact, it would be splendid if we could gather our things and leave right now, all hungry-like.
Which is basically a rather long-winded way of saying that without a slightly frazzled call back to Domino’s online bod in the UK and his supplying us a few names to brandish, issues with the guest list meant that for a short while at least, there was no way we were getting into the show this evening. Finally, finally, we do get in, and weave our way to a relatively central spot momentarily before Arctic Monkeys take the stage. Expectation levels, needless to say, are high.
Within the first few bars of ‘Dance Little Liar’, however, there’s a sense they’ll be fulfilled. Hardly the most immediate of numbers they could have picked to open with (probably one of Humbug’s slowest burning, matter of fact), it finds Alex Turner in subdued mood, organs and guitars swirling around his ruminations regards lies, alibis and “the dirt beneath the dirt”. As with much of its parent album, Josh Homme’s grubby fingerprints are all over it. Like Queens of the Stone Age in their pomp, it exudes louche, rakish confidence, and warms the crowd considerably before the metallic clang of ‘Brainstorm’ – so flatly unappealing on record – incites mass singing along to its pulverising riff.
This being only the second time I’ve witnessed Arctic Monkeys play under a roof, the contrast between the surly, monosyllabic young men who filled out a tiny venue some years ago down Cardiff Bay and the band I see before me is notable. It’s with a sense of ease and likeability Turner leads his troop tonight, gamely introducing ‘Crying Lightning’ in Spanish and pausing during their inevitable encore to thank the supporting Mystery Jets with real, honest reverence.
Musically, too: Arctic Monkeys have, not to incur the dread wrath of inestimable DiS Singles Lady Wendy Roby, always proved an exceptionally tight live prospect, but the warmer, deeper hues realised on Humbug fill out their sound circa 2010 admirably. This is best exemplified on a rumbling ‘My Propeller’, but discernibly filtering through on a rendition of ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ that’s as frantically sweet as ever.
Disappointments do arise – an ill-timed toilet break means I miss out on all but the closing seconds of a venomous ‘Pretty Visitors’, and the likes of ‘A Certain Romance’ and ‘Mardy Bum’ are missed some. ‘Cornerstone’ and a frankly massive ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ actively compensate, mind, and an unexpected glitter storm as the set draws to a close actually serves to underline the better handle on dynamics that years on the road have graced the band, as well as making a case for the yearning ‘Secret Door’ as the best song in their current canon.
That is, however, until ‘Flourescent Adolescent’ and ‘505’ receive their respective airings, sending us off in a haze of keenly felt longing; guitars chugging and sky-bound all at once – the latter little more than a vignette, really, but an almost perfectly wrought one. It’s easy to be cynical from a distance with a band like Arctic Monkeys, proffering withering dismissal in the wake of such outright, mainstream success. As concerts such as this one prove, though, it absolutely shouldn’t be.
Which is basically a rather long-winded way of seeing that yep, they were pretty much worth the wait, then.
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