Living in New York and having to wait so long to tour the UK with an album that was released in June has not dented Alex Turner's dry South Yorkshire wit, nor his attention to vocabulary. "Hello, Millennium Dome," says the Arctic Monkeys' frontman on the first of two nights, ignoring the venue's corporate rebranding.
Despite the hormonal fizz of their early hits, the Monkeys always spanned generations, with beery blokes among their fevered younger fans, picking fights with bouncers as if to remind Turner of what he has since dismissed as "chip shop rock and roll".
Leaving that behind has proved an awkward business for a group who found fame young. They lost focus on 2009's rock-influenced Humbug, but they are back on a relative high with the confident hooks and playful wordplay of Suck It And See.
Privately, all is not great for Turner, who has split from the TV presenter Alexa Chung, and he now finds himself sporting an outlandish quiff, as if auditioning for the Beatles play Backbeat. Otherwise, it is business as usual.
The group look small on stage but they make a huge sound. Led by Matt Helders' authoritative drumming, the four-piece click into a groove so tight that any joins are invisible. Some of the more recent songs may be nonsense rhymes but the tunes jump out, in enough eccentric shapes to prove the band are still pushing themselves. As ever, plenty of false endings and mid-song pauses keep the audience on their toes. Most successful of the current material, intriguingly, are the romantic numbers, with just a hint of plaintiveness from Turner on "She's Thunderstorms", from which his occasional Elvis pose fails to detract.
Humbug is mainly ignored, apart from the occasional gem such as the sinister "Pretty Visitors". The first two albums are better represented, Favourite Worst Nightmare brings forth a jaunty "Fluorescent Adolescent", though the most ecstatic reception is left for songs from the debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, including a stripped back "Mardy Bum" and "When the Sun Goes Down", much of which a bashful Turner leaves to the fans to sing.
Touring to 9 November (arcticmonkeys.com)
- More about: