Gig Review... Arctic Monkeys @ Finsbury Park, 23rd May 2014

Few bands are fortunate enough to have ‘those shows’ that everyone will talk about for years to come. Oasis did it at Knebworth in 1996, The Stone Roses’ three date shows in 2012 and The Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park show just last summer all come to mind. 

The past year has been all about Arctics Monkeys’ fifth studio album, ‘AM’, which has conquered the hearts of many who wouldn’t have batted an eye lid towards them before. The question was, could they deliver the goods when it came to arguably the two biggest shows of their career, at Finsbury Park?
The quartet have already experienced playing on such a scale in their new slick mould almost a year ago at Glastonbury. The gelled back hair and the partial disappearance of the Sheffield flick of the tongue lost some fans but in return gained many. Many who instantly warmed to what’s fast becoming a routine opening in the form of ‘Do I Wanna Know’. It’s hard to imagine a set without it and within seconds Finsbury Park was alight, Jamie Cook’s white suit reflecting the few inches of the sunlight that was left inside the park. The wonderfully premature swing into ‘Snap Out Of It’ caught the crowd by surprise before ‘Arabella’ completed the AM trio of songs. 

The band dipped into their past archives on rare occasions, dispensing the likes of ‘Dancing Shoes‘ and ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor‘ onto the 45,000 heavy crowd, receiving the biggest cheers of the night. Unfortunately though, if you were hoping for a trip down memory lane, you may have been left disappointed. In a set that saw half of it dominated by tracks from ‘AM’, the band could only spare a few tracks from their past four albums. What they did do though, they did with careful consideration and an element of triumph that only Turner and co. could breathe. Scraping out the majority of their ‘Humbug’ and ‘Suck It And See’ albums was a wise move, and the tweaking of the setlist led to teasing intros into ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, ‘Knee Socks‘ and ‘One For The Road’, making the set that little more authentic to the fans.  

Despite the temporary lapse in the party atmosphere during a run of ‘She’s Thunderstoms’, ‘Number 1 Party Anthem’ and ‘Cornerstone’, faith was restored as ‘505’ rounded off the main bulk of the show, despite there bizarrely being no appearance from Miles Kane, who often joins the band on stage for their ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ closing track. 

In a set that so many were tipping to be career-defining and special, the only stand out moment came as Turner took to the stage alone with cigarette and acoustic guitar in toe, telling the crowd, ‘I feel like playing an old song’, before delighting them with an acoustic rendition of early track ‘A Certain Romance’, which, like most past Monkeys’ tracks has become a rarity to hear. The return to the glory days of a group of scrawny Sheffield teens with tracky bottoms tucked in socks was short lived and the now Los Angeles lotharios reminded us of what they’re all about right now, with a raucous ‘R U Mine’ ending the show.

For the ‘AM’ era of fans, it doesn’t get better than this. For everybody else, we sit back like proud parents, seeing how our kids have grown up, but it looks like it could be another five, ten, fifteen years before they treat us to a ‘best of’ kind of performance. Was this career-defining? Well that definition may just have to wait a while.

Joshua Shreeve (@JJShreeve)