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There’s a strong sense that Arctic Monkeys had something to prove tonight. It’s always a major disappointment when a band postpones a show, but their last minute no-show and subsequently rescheduling of the Birmingham leg of their arena tour left thousands of people (many of whom had been queuing outside the LG Arena for hours, only to be turned away) fuming…

It remains the only real blip in what has been a fantastic year for the band, with a stunning headline performance at Glastonbury and ecstatically received fifth album ‘AM’ cementing their position as one of Britain’s biggest and (more importantly) best rock bands.

It’s not surprising then, that The Strypes look a little bit out of their depth supporting them. Sure, as a band, they’re much tighter than any group of 16 year olds deserve to be, but it all feels very hollow. It also doesn’t help that, despite them being clearly influenced by classic 1960’s rhythm and blues, their music veers dangerously close to Mcfly at times. Though they’ve obviously got plenty of time to improve their sound, the sight of punters heading to the bar on mass suggests that opening for such a massive group this early in their career wasn’t the best move.

Arriving to deafening screams of excitement, Arctic Monkeys launch into a muscular rendition of ‘Do I Wanna Know?‘, with it’s bone shaking riff sounding even more powerful in the flesh than on record. From the outset, it’s impossible to ignore how much Alex Turner has grown in his role as a frontman. No longer an awkward teenager struggling to deal with his bands enormous popularity, he croons tracks from their impressive back catalogue with confidence and swagger. During the sections of the set where he hands over lead guitar duties to former Coral member Bill Ryder-Jones, he resembles a demented cross between Elvis Presley, Josh Homme and Nick Cave. It’s a transformation that is reflected throughout the rest of the band, with bassist Nick O’Malley in particular looking like a low-rent Scarface.

With a setlist drawing largely from ‘AM’, the band does a remarkably good job making older material sound at home with their new, more relaxed style. Only debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor‘ suffers from this, having much of its punk urgency drained away. Nevertheless, the frantic crowd doesn’t lose any of its energy, even giving ‘Humbug’ album track ‘Pretty Visitors‘ a manic reception. Even the lack of many established fan-favourites, like ‘When The Sun Goes Down‘ and ‘505‘, cannot derail the euphoric atmosphere. Best of all, the confetti canon-aided finale of the main set, ‘I Wanna Be Yours‘, had everyone in the arena in open-mouthed awe.

Returning to the stage for in evitable encore, Alex Turner finally addresses the original date’s cancellation with a tongue-in-cheek apology that leads to pantomime boos from the crowd. Thankfully, this is followed by explosive version of ‘R U Mine?‘, causing comfortably the biggest sing-along of the night and leaving the people of Birmingham on a massive high.

Better late than never, eh?

 

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