The Arctic Monkeys that took to the stage of Dublin’s O2 was a far cry from the precocious young band that burst upon an unsuspecting music scene just four years ago. Back then, the Sheffield quartet answered to nobody: they shunned the majors to sign for mid-sized indie Domino Records (home to Franz Ferdinand) and indulged in typical rock star stunts like slagging off rival bands and talking at length about how they were so much different from your typical rock star. They said they’d never do arena tours, insisting it didn’t fit their music or their philosophy, yet here they were, playing to an (almost) packed O2 Arena on the last date of a two-week, ten-date tour of the UK and Ireland. It was inevitable that there’d have to be compromises along the way – nobody gets it their own way forever – but the brash youths were dead right about one thing: they’re definitely not suited to arena shows. Not yet, at least.
Taking to the stage on a night Americans call Thanksgiving and everybody else calls Thursday, the Monkeys weren’t exactly in celebratory mood, choosing to open with -Dance Little Liar,’ one of the drearier cuts from their navel-gazing third album, Humbug. The album’s been out for a good three months now, but it would be hard to tell from the audience’s muted reaction to the opening track: the enthusiasm that had buzzed around the venue for a good half-hour before the band appeared died down suddenly, although it was politely received. But the low-key, unfamiliar beginning only meant a louder pop for the song that immediately followed, -Brianstorm.’ Crowd favourites -This House Is A Circus’ and -I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ followed in quick succession, punctuated by another old song, -Still Take You Home,’ and suddenly all the signs pointed to a band that could easily place soon-to-be-classic anthems alongside lesser-known, but no less quality, album tracks.
Yet, for all the glory of the monster hit singles, it was never really that great of a show. Humbug is a difficult album to penetrate at the best of times – even the better tracks take some work to get in to – but songs like -Potion Approaching’ (misheard as -Persian Approaching’ – a much better title) and -Pretty Visitors’ became opportune moments for bathroom breaks as the set wore on – with a bit of luck you could even make it to the bar on the way back and still catch the start of the next song. -Crying Lightning’ was well-received, as was new single -Cornerstone,’ but it was the impromptu moments between songs – Alex throwing out a few bars of Rod Stewart’s ropey classic -Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ and putting on a hilariously over-sized t-shirt that had been thrown from the audience – that provided the most entertainment.
So overall a patchy night, but thankfully there was no repeat scenes of what had occurred in the same venue last Sunday, when Yusuf Islam was booed off for having the temerity to let somebody else sing his songs. There had been walk-outs on the band’s UK dates – showing that not all fans are particularly pleased about the band’s decision to accommodate their still-growing fan base – but the crowd did go home largely satisfied, having had the opportunity to hear their favourite songs in new, though uncertain, surroundings.
Photos: Sean Conroy