Arctic Monkeys @ The Ritz - Sunday 16th October 2005
by Liam Ronan
“Quick leg it!” We were in the toilet downstairs shouting “Shabba,” shooting our gun fingers and singing ‘Mr Boombastic’ with the resident aftershave seller/hand washer bloke and suddenly we heard the trademark Hip Hop tune entrance of the Arctic Monkeys. I got a quick squirt of Aqua Di Gio “for the Punani” and steamed upstairs just in time for the guitar-jolting, drum-beating, bass-rocking debut single that is ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.’Enticing the audience like a magnet (literally, people were stage diving and pushing to the front as if being pulled in by a force field!), Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys went straight into ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco.’ A tongue in cheek account of ‘the scene’ and how bands from towns like “Rotherham” attempt to write songs about the Californian sunset when the closest they’ve seen to it is Blackpool Illuminations. Instead, the Monkeys talk of what they know such as, “weekend rock-stars…in the toilets practicing their ‘lines” at they’re old city haunt, ‘The Boardwalk.’
About to launch into one song, the Monkeys encountered a technical hitch which lasted somewhere between five to ten minutes. The ‘boo’s were swiftly faded out by chants of ‘Yorkshire! Yorkshire! (etc),’ revealing the strong Tyke contingent at the gig (no flat caps or whippets were seen though).
Technically repaired, Sheffield’s High Green four-piece played a couple of songs unheard by most of the audience but that didn’t stop the crowd surfers or the Ritz’s notorious bouncy floor from recoiling. After a long jamming outro from one song, the Monkeys shook the crowd out of its hypnotised state by quickly turning the jam into ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ (formerly known as ‘scummy’). The crowd were then re-awakened with an energy that intertwined with the band’s, who threw out three more top class tunes into the throng. ‘Dancing Shoes,’ with its tribal drums and dark-salsa tones got the crowd moving again; if it was a colour it would be red- saucy, sordid and satanic! Fans favourite ‘Mardy Bum,’ was hugely received; this is one of the songs that especially sounds like the Libertines with its jingly-jangly riff and beat, as well as its connotations with love and relationships that could have been easily wrote by Pete Doherty if he was a South Yorkshire lad. ‘Still Take You Home’ with its crowd interactive chorus-catchphrase, “What do you know? Oh you know nothing!” was yet another upbeat track, consistent with the set.
‘Ritz to the Rubble’ brings associations with Mike Skinner in the way he starts the tune by just saying, “last night these two bouncers, and one of em’s allreyt, the other two are scary/ His way or no way- totalitarian.” The chat turns into a shout, which then becomes an angered rant, like we all do, about bouncers and binge-drinkers. One of the true contemporary poets of our generation; no surprises that one of singer Alex Turner’s heroes is Salford’s very own ‘people’s poet’ John Cooper- Clarke.
Turner, Cook, Nicholson and Helders rounded-off an amazing gig with ‘A Certain Romance.’ The tribal drums are out again on this one along with Libertines-like jingly guitars and a powerful bass line that sets a sort of Ska beat to lyrics about Scallies. Just as they maintain their Hip Hop entrance habits, they also stick to their exiting ritual of not doing an encore. As Liam Gallagher once said, it seems silly to “pretend that we’re not coming on again, but then do and you have to act surprised.” It is probably due to their modesty and respect for the audience that they don’t make you wait five minutes shouting for them to come back on and play two or three more songs when they can just stay on and play them. If they got thirsty they just had a swig of lager onstage.
Alex Turner said at Leeds festival “Don’t believe the hype,” probably so it didn’t jinx the band or so they didn’t end up resting on their laurels. This is true in some respects, they still have a lot of work to do before they even get near to living up to their future expectations of being the band that the Libertines could have been, or the next Oasis, even the next Jam. However, although every band gets ‘hyped,’ one has to admit that it is unusual for a group who have only released their debut single last Monday to be receiving so much attention i.e. sold out tours, demo CD’s for £50 on EBay, Radio One support when unsigned, Domino Records biggest contract advance yet and array of support from Southend to Southport. Will the Arctic Monkeys be THE band of 2006…we’ll soon see.
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