The red curtain parted and through the smoke lurked five figures; statuesque to soak the acclaim before they solemnly delved into ‘Dance Little Liar'. Few bands could get away with such a brutally understated start but then there are few bands like Arctic Monkeys and few gigs as anticipated as their homecoming. Two and a half years is a long time for such a beloved group to evade Sheffield which would explain the lack of pleasantries as they skipped a proper hello and launched straight into ‘Brianstorm'. Accompanied by a cataracts curing lightshow, the barnstorming track also saw the unveiling of screens to the side of the stage with interchanging close-up shots of each member. A quick glance revealed telling signs of their maturity; a focused intensity and a boycott of barbers though there was little point trying to keep an eye on the blur formerly known as the drummer Matt Helders.
An indulgent, revamped rendition of ‘This House Is A Circus’ became the first of several tracks to embrace a reworked breakdown. Even the likes of ‘Still Take You Home’ now involve a sturdy midsection to supplement its taut guitar riffs and prepubescent narrative. The adaptations not only divulged the band’s meatier sound but also displayed their learning; that you cannot escape your past but with a few tweaks you can still nurture it for your performance. The effect was marked when the song that kickstarted it all, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor', gatecrashed their set. Whereas before the band seemed reluctant to even include the anthem, here they were zealous in delivery.
"Do you like b-sides?". Even if frontman Alex Turner received a hearty response to the enquiry (well, their loyal masses were hardly going to disagree were they), the inclusion of ‘Sketchead’ still seemed dubious. The track could easily soundtrack a comic chase in an early 90s cartoon, so confusing and convoluting were its key changes. Regardless, since The Carling Weekend the band seem to have learnt their lesson of hastily dropping new songs with a well-thought out set-list. On this occasion the crowd were suitably warmed up for an album playback with the hypnotic, innuendo ridden ‘My Propeller’ followed by a rasping ‘Crying Lightning’ and a smutty ‘Dangerous Animals'. The run-through then came crashing to a halt as Helders took the lead for ‘The View From The Afternoon’ with the sort of solo performance that marks him out as the most gifted drummer of his generation. From the stunning to the sublime with new single ‘Cornerstone’ which featured Turner’s endearingly heartfelt vocals as a side to the longing guitar. Quite the contrast to the dark and slightly sadistic ‘If You Were There, Beware'.
The signs were already evident yet by this point Turner finally fulfilled his role as front man having incited a few ‘local’ chants. Then came ‘Pretty Visitors’ and his chance to show-off. Stalking the stage with the microphone clutched with intent whilst pushing his fringe out of his eyeline acted as mere showmanship to his impressive quickfire vocal delivery. After retreating back to his spot Turner seemed more at ease with a deep and stickly performance of ‘The Jeweller’s Hands’ that made way for a mesmerising rendition of ‘Do Me A Favour'. The spotlight then fell on Turner again for ‘When The Sun Goes Down' as he stood alone and proudly led the crowd into a flurry of flailing limbs. Even if the track gives direct mention to the Sheffield’s red light trade, the conclusion saw a touching moment as both crowd and Turner himself joined in applause for each other’s efforts.
Three months after its release and Humbug finally seems imbedded with even ‘Secret Door’ being sung back in its entirety as mobile phones replaced lighters until an explosion of confetti quickly diverted attention. Before the confetti had even settled, the band had returned for an encore of ‘Florescent Adolescent’ with a few refrains of ‘Mardy Bum’ snuck in for good measure. As has become tradition, the set concluded on the sombre yet triumphant ‘505’ and even if Turner scarpered early, the deafening acclaim was more than deserved. If only the boys would return home more often.