‘THE week they re-conquer the world’ roared the NME cover story ahead of Arctic Monkeys’ long-awaited Sheffield comeback gigs at Don Valley Bowl. So no pressure there, then.
Twenty thousand fans over two nights packed into a giant tent last used to host Lady Gaga and others for last month’s Radio 1 Big Weekend and prepared for a party.
And the lads from High Green let no-one down with shows likely to be seen as pivotal to their still blossoming careers.
Everything felt right. Some beforehand had raised eyebrows at the somewhat unorthodox choice of venue – after all, what was wrong with the Arena next door, which would pack in more people anyway? But the band knew what they were doing.
On a fine summer evening the feeling outside was like a mini-festival, complete with a stall selling Kelham Island Easy Rider, while inside the tent the atmosphere had an electricity that no enormo-dome could ever match.
Some fans managed to get tickets for both nights and were well prepared – clad in hooded plastic macs, they were equipped to withstand the torrents of beer, cider and other lubricants soon showering the crowd.
Scouser Miles Kane cranked up the excitement with a short raucous set before the big moment arrived shortly after nine.
Hot Chocolate’s Full Monty favourite You Sexy Thing boomed out from the speakers, sparking uproar, as the Arctics took to the stage with A View From The Afternoon.
Now the last time the band played Sheffield in autumn 2009 at the aforementioned Arena, it was a show that divided the fans.
Firmly based around the then current album Humbug, many old favourites were absent and some of the crowd seemed underwhelmed and disappointed. This was a very different bottle of Hendersons.
The set featured almost every song any fan would crave to hear, including a revival for the much-missed Mardy Bum, played acoustic style by Alex, with every word sung back to him.
Humbug was represented by just three songs this time – Crying Lightning, Pretty Visitors and the gorgeous Cornerstone – with the emphasis instead on the first two classics which made the band’s name.
Then there was the new stuff, drawn from the excellent new release Suck It And See. Coming early, Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair already feels like a live staple, while Brick By Brick and Library Pictures also represented the collection’s rockier side.
The only real criticism of the show is that the album’s superb more reflective side was sadly under-represented – probably understandable as they band probably didn’t want to weigh down their set with songs only released just a few days before.
That said, The Hellcat Spangled Sha-La-La, She’s Thunderstorms and the beautiful That’s Where You’re Wrong were still highlights of the night.
That’s what’s currently exciting about the Arctics – the feeling that they are still developing, still improving.
Certainly their live show has effortlessly adapted from the stages of the Leadmill and the Boardwalk to huge audiences like these, underpinned by Alex Turner’s superb guitar and the powerhouse drumming of Matt Helders.
The set moved into top gear with Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, Do Me A Favour and the terrific 505, which closed the main set. And it would have been hard to top the encore – one big last singalong to When The Sun Goes Down, the perfect pop of Fluorescent Adolescent and the welcome return after four years of the awesome A Certain Romance – especially for Sheffield, according to Alex.
Now the band move on to festival appearances across Europe and a full UK arena tour in the autumn – but it’s doubtful there’ll be nights quite as special as these.