The Arctic Monkeys played tracks from their new album Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino for the first time live in front of a UK audience at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall on Thursday night, in aid of War Child.
The career-spanning set came straight off the back of their Live at the BBC special – which airs on BBC Two on Friday night from 23:05 – and we went along to witness the start of the new Monkeys era for ourselves.
Here’s what we learned.
The Arctic Monkeys are no longer just four lads from Sheffield
They’ve been living as Transatlantic rock stars for many years but until now the Arctics have remained a tight and compact rock machine.
But the expansive sound of the new record required no fewer than nine accomplished musicians, who came and went throughout the night, providing supplementary guitar, keys and percussion where required (mostly, it has to be said, on the new material).
Only Cameron Avery – of Tame Impala and Last Shadow Puppets – received an actual name-check, however, ahead of his contribution to the new song She Looks Like Fun.
While the Arctics used to want to block out the rest of the world (bar the odd cameo from the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Miles Kane) their 2018 incarnation has apparently flung the stage door wide open.
Star Treatment made its live debut
The opening track from the new record got its first ever run-out – as the first part of a three-song encore.
The song’s refrain: “Who you gonna call? The Martini police” echoed around the venue just minutes after the band themselves had returned to the stage with their glasses full of clear, bubbly liquid (Fizzy martinis? How sophisticated).
The new songs showed the band in a whole new light as Alex Turner, complete with goatee, moved effortlessly from guitar to piano stool and back again.
All six of the band’s albums were represented on the night – with five songs apiece from Tranquillity Base and AM – and the expanded band helped breathe fresh life into the old indie bangers too.
Some old fans’ favourites were restored to the set
With five years between records, it seems the Monkeys had time to reflect on where they’ve been before setting off in a vastly new direction.
Apart from watching them get to grips with their new sound on British soil for the first time, perhaps the most excitement came from them re-visiting a few old lesser-played favourites.
Matt Helders’ opening drum beat on Do Me A Favour from 2007 album Favourite Worst Nightmare drew loud cheers and the haunting Pretty Visitors from 2009’s Humbug was another most welcome surprise.
“All the pretty visitors came and waved their arms / And cast the shadow of a snake pit on the wall.”
By some distance though, the shock inclusion of their street poet indie-night-out anthem, From the Ritz to the Rubble, provided the highlight of the evening. Played for the first time since 2011, it caused riotous scenes in the 5,300 strong crowd and almost took the Royal Albert Hall’s expensively-adorned roof off.
Ticket touts clearly don’t care about charity
Tickets for Thursday’s sold out gig retailed at around £60 with a chunk of that cash acting as a voluntary donation to the War Child charity, which provides assistance to kids in areas experiencing conflict.
A quick stroll around the venue however, saw hardcore Monkeys fans being asked by scalpers to pay upwards of £100 for the pleasure.
The band’s management, who worked closely with Fanfair Alliance, told the BBC that they are making every effort to combat secondary ticket touting.
They said: “In anticipation of the demand, we adopted strict Anti-Touting measures. Ticket resale was forbidden other than through the authorised ‘Face value or less’ ethical exchange.
“Of course, despite such efforts a very limited number of touts may try to sell the ‘guest’ ticket but will have to walk the buyer in to deal with the ID restriction limiting greatly their success.”
Adding: “The measures adopted to fairly distribute tickets and to restrict their resale were very successful.”
“Thank you for coming” noted Alex, before the band’s raucous final track of the night. “And thank you for supporting war child. I’ve just got one final question for you? R U Mine?“
Perhaps a better question might have been: “R U going to sort out these touts once and for all?”