Review: Arctic Monkeys, Newcastle Metro Radio Arena - Keeping the spirit burning brightly

Jonathan Brown

No matter how many times you hear Do I Wanna Know? through iPod headphones, on the radio or the docking station, little can prepare the listener for hearing it in all its chest-thumping live glory. It is truly a thing of austere beauty and excitement.

There can be little doubt that the 2012/13 season has proved something of an Annus mirabilis for the Arctic Monkeys in a career which has never really deviated too far from the miraculous.

They performed a coruscating set to a global audience of billions at the Olympic opening ceremony, headlined at Glastonbury as well as becoming the most successful indy band in history by reaching number one with their first five albums - the latest of which, AM, was hailed in some influential if moderately overexcited quarters as the finest record to be released in the past decade.

Front man Alex Turner can even make Susanna Reid blush and can (almost) get away with a dodgy pastiche of an American accent and a priapic quiff. But it is here in the cavernous surroundings of the provincial auditoria before the willing teenage armies of beer-flinging, right-of-passage admirers that they must continue to prove themselves and keep the spirit of their acerbically intelligent brand of rock n roll burning brightly.

Newcastle on soggy Tuesday night on the first date of a British and European tour is a far cry from the hipster lives the lads from Sheffield are said to be living on America's sunshine West Coast. Yet if they had even a scintilla of disdain for their audience of the sort exhibited at their showcase iTunes Festival show last month, they were not showing it.

Perhaps the worst that can be said of them is that their middling tracks suffer by comparison with the very best. But that is because the very best are exceptional. And when you think they might be struggling for a new lyricism and sensibility they switch tempo to produce a performance of extraordinary vitality. Snake-hipped Turner would surely give La Reid a run for her Strictly cheque, should he ever choose to take up her invitation. Performing beneath a sparse backdrop, the Monkeys rattled through the best of the most recent work and the pinnacles of their achievement so far.

The audience struggled to spot a stripped-down Why Do You Only Call Me When You're High? but responded instantaneously to I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, Dancing Shoes, Snap Out of It and others with a slow Mardy Bum the encore.

The band were ably supported by Ireland's The Strypes whose first album Snapshot was released last month. Their homage to Dr Feelgood perfectly evoked the spirit of the Thames Delta. They have great things ahead of them.

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