Leeds Festival 2009
Like an old flame seen after two years, Arctic Monkeys have changed. Whether third album syndrome or mere growing up, their balls have collectively dropped and the hair has grown a fair few inches. Even so the hoards at the main stage clutched them to their bosom like old friends and given five days (legally) to digest Humbug their homework was quickly tested as the band opened on the album’s first track, 'My Propeller'. With lead singer Alex Turner guarded behind shades in a leather jacket, he even slurred the introduction to their cover of Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’, as if transformed into a bygone rock n roll cliché. Such a perplexing start meant that both tracks were met with defiant indifference; suffering to an overconfidence for foregoing the crowd favourites immediately. Turner soon removed his shades and with his long sweeping manes he appeared the incarnation of Craig Nicholls, remember him? The likeness does not end on simple lookalikes as if the bastard child of Queens of The Stone Age and The Vines that their reincarnation hints at needed confirming, a typically frenetic 'Brianstorm' launched their set into life, despite a brief ’technical hitch’.
When their back catalogue was finally delved, the tracks took on new meaning as if another band were covering the likes of a ravishing 'Still Take You Home' complete with saucy midsection. Or some other fresh faced youths had come out with 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'. With Humbug still on its first week of release, attention naturally turned to showcasing the fresh material. 'Potion Approaching' with its bone crunching grooves from guitarist Jamie Cook permitting Turner to roam the stage with a newfound malevolence and 'Pretty Visitors' peppered with dark, intimidating couplets with a church organ for added kookiness. Thankfully, 'This House Is A Circus' slotted in nicely, bridging the gap between albums with a purposefully sluggish final verse leaving 'If You Were There, Beware' to stir with its final nerve shredding breakdown. All very impressively performed due to the assured, muscular sound the band has since adopted with particular kudos to drummer Matt Helders yet the tracks selected are to be admired from afar and skirt crowd involvement. In comparison, 'When The Sun Goes Down' assaulted the attention with its well worn social realism, excusing 'Dangerous Animals' for its bafflingly exclusive chorus. Alas, the hits are used sparingly with 'The View From The Afternoon' required to inject vigour into what had become a flagging set even with endearing renditions of 'Cornerstone' and a rare live outing for 'Only Ones Who Know'. The tub-thump of 'Do Me A Favour' followed by a vivacious 'Flourescent Adolescent' helped redeem the situation yet the damage was done.
Their encore was as beguiling as their set disappointing with 'Secret Door' followed by a somewhat longing '505'. With a rapidly dispersing crowd the only notable feature of the set was its omissions. For a homecoming crowd who simply want a singalong, for what price the likes of Teddy Picker, Fake Tales of San Francisco and A Certain Romance?