Arctic Monkeys, O2 Arena, 29 October 2011

Five years ago, Arctic Monkeys live at the O2 Arena would have sounded bonkers to these four mates from Sheffield who were working on what is arguably the most important British debut of the last decade. Six years later, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not is probably still the best, most-beloved and highest-rated record of their career.

Arctic Monkeys’ two sold out night-stint at the O2 Arena divides opinions. Their audience has grown exponentially and their sound has changed from indie rock to American-influenced rock’n’roll, but on the we can’t forget why these four cheeky Northerners have become who they are now.

Their tongue-in-cheek tales of rejection, arguments with bouncers and shyness on the dance floor made sense in a small venue full of sweaty teenagers, but are they still relevant in such big arenas? It seems Arctic Monkeys have decided to leave their old tunes behind in favour of rock’n’roll stardom.

First on stage were The Vaccines, who clearly enjoyed their half hour slot in front of a happy and energetic crowd. No longer ‘the next big thing’, The Vaccines will soon play Brixton Academy, and have tonight been given a taste of how it feels to play to a massive audience.

From 9pm all eyes were on Alex, Matt, Jamie and Nick who started their show with Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.

Their massive new sound could even be heard on old tracks like Teddy Picker and View From The Afternoon, as if Arctic Monkeys were naturally born as a British Queens Of The Stone Age, rather than diffident indie rock punksters.

Musically, the rockier their gig was (Alex Turner’s leather jacket and James Dean quiff for instance) the more something else was missing: the cheeky yet timid character of their first two records. Whereas songs like Mardy Bum, When The Sun Goes Down and Fluorescent Adolescent were heroically received, new songs such as The Hellcat Spangled Shalala or Suck It And See, despite their quality, have no real wow factor.

A highlight of this perfectly-played show was Miles Kane’s surprise cameo for one of Arctic Monkeys’ best songs, 505. The fact that Arctic Monkeys are still opting for an oldie to close their show could well signal a slightly nostalgic and emotional attitude to their previous albums.

Arctic Monkeys clearly deserve to play arenas and stadiums. Their career is quite unique in a music business which sees most bands fail to impress after their sophomore albums.

They are not teenagers anymore. They collaborate with Josh Homme and are trying to step beyond their indie roots. However, fans of the first hour who fell in love with their sincerity and clumsiness may find hard to cope with their new image.

Arctic Monkeys’ creativity, masterful lyrics and youthful inexperience made indie rock commercially successful. Now they are proper rockstars with a sound not far from that of stadium rock bands. Their success has cost them the intimacy they once had with their audience.

By Silvia Rucchin

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