Music review: Arctic Monkeys, iTunes Festival, Roundhouse, London


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The Independent Culture

“I’ve forgot the words,” sings Alex Turner at the climax of the encore "505". It is the last song of Arctic Monkeys’ London iTunes festival headline slot (and an established fixture on the band’s setlist for several years) on the day their much-lauded new album AM is released.

It should be a blip on an otherwise triumphant evening, and yet it makes for a bizarrely brilliant finish. Tonight, Arctic Monkeys are a band so clearly at the peak of their game that a humorous slip-up like this provides the necessary glimmer of playfulness to prove that, under the slick haircuts and saucy riffs, they’re still the lads that looked good on the dancefloor way back when.

Whilst you can’t imagine other bands of their stature – Kings of Leon or Muse, say – ever being so irreverent, Arctic Monkeys straddle the line of being stadium-sized whilst still sounding like the people’s band with aplomb. Much has been made of Turner’s Americanisms, hip-hop references and penchant for an indoor pair of sunglasses of late, but in the intimate surrounds of the Roundhouse none of these things matter. Arctic Monkeys tonight, despite the inevitably less-than-ideal conditions of a randomly-selected, competition winners’ crowd, are a peerless band.

With the monochrome soundwaves of their current album cover decorating the stage’s semi-circular screens, the group begin with the heavy drum stomp of recent single "Do I Wanna Know". It’s a bolshy glimpse of where the Sheffield quartet are at, but they’re equally comfortable ploughing the furrows of old as they are the sexually-fixated throbs of now. "Brianstorm", "Dancing Shoes", "Don’t Sit Down ‘Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair" and "Crying Lightning" follow – one from each of their previous four albums and a testament to the fact that the group are yet to put out a sub-par release – before Turner fully assumes the cheeky, pierside entertainer character that is his current incarnation.

“We’ve got so many songs about bricks,” he deadpans between "Brick by Brick" (fronted by drummer Matt Helders) and old favourite "Old Yellow Bricks", whilst the refrain of "Pretty Visitors" is buoyed by a cynical side-to-side crowd wave.

Ex-Coral man Bill Ryder-Jones makes an appearance during "Fireside", whilst ever-present wingman Miles Kane pops up to close the set, but really they’re just token additions. Tonight, Arctic Monkeys are clearly in need of, and in the shadow of, no one but themselves.