The Arctic Monkeys are the UK's Next Really Big Thing. When they played a lowly slot at Reading Festival in August, the audience spilled 20 feet from the packed tent. Tonight's show was upgraded to the Astoria to satisfy the demand. And yet the Arctic Monkeys have still released only one single (about £80 on eBay).
Like label mates Franz Ferdinand, this quartet have seemingly leapt into the limelight fully formed. But the Arctic Monkeys got together three years ago and amassed their following playing shows and giving away demos. Smitten fans did the rest, spreading news and mp3s. It's this grass-roots, chat-room frenzy that lured record company scouts. By the time Domino signed the band, they were a pop phenomenon.
Happily, it seems the Arctic Monkeys are worth the fuss. Led by the charismatic Alex Turner, the band are so confident that they kick off tonight's set with their best known song, the incendiary upcoming single, "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor". If that wasn't ballsy enough, they follow it with the lead track from their debut single, the razor-sharp "Fake Tales Of San Francisco", an arch tirade against Strokes-inspired rock 'n' roll wannabes. The crowd bellows to both at a volume that wouldn't shame Anfield.
Fusing together influences such as Oasis, The Coral and Mancunian punk poet John Cooper Clarke the Arctic Monkeys excel at joyously spiky, propulsive pop. But it's Turner's acerbic lyrics, which he spits out with northern-accented ferocity, that mark the Monkeys out. His wry vignettes concern everything from power-crazed bouncers in "From The Ritz To The Rubble" to stroppy girlfriends in "Mardy Bum".
Turner is the essence of the Arctic Monkeys. Looking like a young(er) Jake Gyllenhaal, he's more ordinary bloke than rock god. Yet standing on stage in baggy jeans and T-shirt, his presence is so commanding that when, after a few songs, he warns the crowd to stop chucking beer cans towards the stage, they comply. After that, not a single can takes flight.
It would be pushing it to say that every song aired tonight is a hit in waiting, but it's hard not to be impressed. This is an exuberant, smart and savvy band that write sharp, impeccably observed guitar-pop shocks and deliver them with infectious energy.
There is polishing to be done, but it's early days: the debut album isn't recorded. If they can keep a lid on the hype until it is (and they're said, wisely, to be turning down more interviews than they're granting), there should be no stopping them.