Arctic Monkeys
@ Leadmill, Sheffield

Well, what hasn’t been said about this, the first of two nights in the band’s hometown, immediately before their “highly anticipated” second album launches. With the CD billed as the “hottest follow-up since the Stone Roses’ Second Coming” by the NME, tickets were selling for £100 and more on the door, and God knows how much on eBay.

Starting with a short-but-sweet song from their new album, “Favourite Worst Nightmare”, the band quickly shifted into current single “Brianstorm” and the atmosphere exploded. Anyone called Brian walking within 100 feet of the Leadmill at this point would have been right to think that a hoard of angry Northerners were after him, as the roar was deafening.

This audience participation continued all night, to the extent that during the most popular songs, notably “Mardy Bum” and “When The Sun Goes Down”, Alex may as well have been miming for the amount his voice could be heard.

New songs were greeted with general appreciation, and the crowd got into them as much as they could for the little they had heard of the tracks, but the setlist let this good feeling down. Mid-set, the band performed three new ballads back-to-back and the audience began to drift away from them…until the opening chords of “Mardy Bum” almost caused a riot. Perhaps a bit more mixing of old and new would have made the recent material more enjoyable.

Still, all the old favourites were carefully performed with little or no changes, and across the hour-and-a-bit that the band were on they totalled around 20 tracks, even blessing the audience with an encore of the massively hyped “505”, with Alex on keys and a guest guitarist filling his space.

On stage, the band were lined up next to each other, with drummer Matt Helders shoulder-to-waist with the others, creating the image of them playing with a stick-bearing dwarf. As the crowd became increasingly raucous, plastic glasses containing various liquids began to fly, with one in particular creating a wet stripe across Alex Turner’s shirt and guitar. “I hope that weren’t owt more volatile than water” he commented at the end of the song, before changing guitars and carrying on as if nothing had happened.

It was this lack of spirit that spoiled the show a bit for me. The band hardly said a word to the crowd and lacked stage presence; if it weren’t for the thousand-plus screaming fans in front of them, the local boys would have looked…well, ordinary. Still, an event not to be missed and an enjoyable night in the end. But if someone sees any of the band soon, can they please introduce them to Justin Hawkins, The Feeling or (dare I say it?) GLC for some lessons in making the audience feel part of the night?

Highlights – apart from the old favourites – were new tracks “Teddy Picker” and “Old Yellow Bricks”, “505” was so different it couldn’t help but stand out.

Simon Middleyard