Review: Arctic Monkeys @ Shepherds Bush Empire 28 March 2010

When reviewing a gig I usually endeavour to post it before the following day while the memories are fresh before they become too distant and I begin to blur the lines between imagination and reality and I weave tales based on my retrospective emotional state rather than the facts.

arctic monkeys setlist

The trouble with an Arctic Monkeys gig is that at the age of 30 you begin to feel like a chaperone to the scores of 14-16-year-olds who’ve turned out for the event… so even faced with the prospect of losing out on great seats in an unreserved seating area, the thought of queueing among them like the awkward beanpole-kid that’s been held back a few school years is enough to drive anyone to drink… and so we cue the pub, and a reference to my opening paragraph.

Having seen Arctic Monkeys perform live before, the idea of a special show dedicated solely to the performance of Humbug played from top to bottom was a rather special diamond encrusted belt notch I thought, but for a first timer… a little unfortunate.

Conveniently, the opening track on Humbug is current single My Propeller so kicks the set off with a real sense of here-and-now. Playing through the familiar chronology, though some may have found too predictable, I found gave the set highlight moments to look forward to based on song preferences, without the risk of disappointment when a band doesn’t play a song you’d hoped for in normal gig circumstances… and the convenience of a timed bathroom break for the lesser ‘choice’ songs – Nice!

Overall, though short-lived, it was a marvellous affair with Pretty Visitors being the highlight for me, as well as Crying Lightning b-side and Nick Cave cover Red Right Hand closing the set as only 1 of 5 b-sides following on from Humbug’s 10 track run.

So what can I take away from last nights performance that will stay with me forever?… This may sound a little lame to most, but I’ve always wanted to see it in the flesh and unlike the first time I saw them, Matt Helders was using the Agile Beast, which if like me you’re a drummer and a Matt Helders fan, is the Holy Grail of an Arctic Monkeys gig.

Arctic Monkeys albums are available to download at Nokia Music Store or if you’ve got Comes With Music get them all for free!

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Arctic Monkeys Humbug


So about now this blog’s Arctic Monkeys tag cloud is about to burst, creating a flash flood that could well sweep the competition out to sea. Following the impact Favourite Worst Nightmare and indeed the band as a whole had on me, Humbug falls within my top 3 most anticipated albums of the year. The trouble is the other 2 were within weeks of this release bringing to mind the modern urban proverb “you wait and wait for a bus and then 2 come along at once” only it’s 3 buses and I can’t choose which one to take to get me there quicker.

Upon learning of Josh Homme producing Humbug and reading that the band wanted more Brianstorm like tracks, I knew we were in for something that might alienate the Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not era fans and so wasn’t surprised to find this was indeed the case to a degree… and for those I am sad!… because I still hear the same old Arctic Monkeys now as I did then, only (as I commented on someone else’s review) Humbug is like the audio negative of the band’s earlier work with the undertones coming to the foreground while the beautiful colourings are suppressed below.

Stand out moments on the album: Potion Approaching and Pretty Visitors (it’s all about the toms man!)

Arctic Monkeys are exactly the reason we must encourage our children to make music from a young age (or whatever they want really), when they’re newly self aware and their sentience isn’t marred by the imposed limitations of adulthood, it’s this I believe that has given us a band of such depth and the early wisdom some may overlook.

Seen them live this year?:

Humbug ‘Launch Party’: 26 Aug @ Brixton Academy with support by Them Crooked Vultures, watched Dave Grohl drum an entire set at close range and I still left that gig obsessed with Matt Helders.

Check out other Arctic Monkeys posts from earlier in the year

Humbug is available to download from The Nokia Music Store and is completely free to ‘Comes With Music’ subscribers.

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