Eighteen months ago, Arctic Monkeys played The Plug in Sheffield, just before the release of I Bet You Good Look On The Dancefloor. The venue was crammed with long-term fans, the ones who’d been to the early gigs and knew all the unreleased songs inside out, and there was an air of celebration as the unstoppable Arctics juggernaut rolled on.
It’s been a whirlwind year and a half for Alex Turner and company since then, taking in record sales for the debut album, a not entirely successful attempt to crack America and more awards that would fit on a shelf in High Green. Yet it’s a sign of how close the band have remained to their fans that they chose their homecoming gig to be spread out over 2 nights at the 900 capacity Leadmill rather than the Arena that they would undoubtedly be able to fill.
A good job too, as Arctic Monkeys have never been a stadium band. As good as they were at the Leeds Festival, there’s no real substitute for seeing them in a sweaty club, packed to the rafters with a crowd going certifiably insane. Which is what happened as soon as the band walked onstage and crashed into If You Found This It’s Probably Too Late.
It’s a sign of the band’s legendary contrariness that they chose to open with an obscure B-side, but that didn’t bother the faithful who pogoed and moshed like crazy before singing along to the guitar solo on the following Brainstorm (Arctic Monkeys fans sing along to everything, even instrumental breaks). The most recent single sounds even more impressive live than it does on record, with Matt Helders and Nick O’Malley keeping things tight and Turner and Jamie Cook firing off some brain-frazzling guitar riffs.
The setlist unsurprisingly leaned pretty heavily on new album Favourite Worst Nightmare, yet despite the fact that it’s not due out for another 2 days, the entire audience seemed to know every word. Teddy Picker and the impressive Do Me A Favour were well received, although strangely there was no sign of the album’s catchiest tune Florescent Adolescent.
The earlier songs weren’t forgotten either, with frantic renditions of Dancing Shoes, From The Ritz To The Rubble and View From The Afternoon all resulting in frenzied thrashing from the crowd. Mardy Bum was even dusted off, resulting in the loudest singalong heard in Sheffield this year, while the Leadmill bouncers had difficulty keeping track of all the crowd surfers during Still Take You Home.
Audience banter was, as usual, kept to a minimum (‘alreet’ and ‘cheers’ were about all we got from Turner) but it was nice to see Nick O’Malley grinning like a kid on Christmas Day, although Jamie Cook looked understandably pissed off when a bottle of water came flying towards him from the crowd.
After a superbly tight rendition of Leave Before The Lights Come On (debuted at that Plug show back in October 2005) and the traditional set-closer of A Certain Romance, it would usual be time for the crowd to disperse. As we all know, Arctic Monkeys don’t do encores.
Not this time though. After a keyboard was quickly set up, the band reappeared to run through a blistering version of 505, perhaps Favourite Worst Nightmare’s most impressive moment. It’s pretty hard to imagine the Arctics not going down well in Sheffield, but they exceeded all expectations at the Leadmill.