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Arctic Monkeys review – it’s Alex Turner’s show and we’re just living in it | Music

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It’s a cloudy night in Melbourne, but of course the sunglasses stay on. There are few frontmen touring today who lean into the theatrics of rockstardom as effortlessly as Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys. At least these days, it seems like he’s enjoying it. When I last saw Turner perform in London a few years back, with his side-act the Last Shadow Puppets, he could barely stand straight. Standing on stage at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, kicking off the Australian leg of their latest album tour, he seems positively chipper.

This tour is “very sold out”, the promoter says beforehand; Australians have loved Arctic Monkeys since they crashed on to Triple J with I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor back in 2006. Almost 20 years on and six albums later, the band understandably now sounds very different. Gone is in the indie snarling of their early albums, and the greaser slickness of AM. Thankfully, gone too is the cosmic weirdness of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, a jazz-inflected concept album centred around a resort on the moon that confounded some fans.

Now we’re in The Car era of Arctic Monkeys, which stays on the same road as Tranquility: slower, smoother, jazzier. “Rather than strings on top of rock, I was interested in switching the ‘rock band’ bit on and off,” Turner recently told the Guardian about the new album. Thankfully, he also ditched the word salad that distracted on Tranquility, which featured lyrics like “swamp monster with a hard on for connectivity” and “(She looks like fun) Good morning / (She looks like fun) Cheeseburger.” Some critics kindly called it inscrutable. (Some might have just called it babble.)

Reedy in his suit and sunglasses, it is easy to see glimpses of Bob Dylan (who is a fan) in Turner when he’s performing; with every flick of the wrists as he laments space gentrification on Four Stars Out of Five, there’s a shadow of David Byrne too. He gives plenty of devilish hip thrusts and elegant high kicks in the air whenever he achieves a particularly anxious sound on his guitar. He’s fond of a campy turn and stare, which gets the crowd screaming without fail. But still, Turner appears curiously elsewhere on stage, his fingers dancing so effortlessly across his guitar that he looks almost on autopilot. There’s very little chat. “How are you?” he drawls, to wild shrieks. “What a relief.”

Neither Turner nor the band begrudge fans who like the old stuff better than the new stuff, so the setlist is a surprisingly expansive. Opening with ominous new track Sculptures of Anything Goes, we are dropped into the thundering drums of Brianstorm, then the upbeat pulse of Snap Out of It. This pick-and-mix approach continues through to the encore, which starts with There’d Better Be a Mirrorball, a rich ballad from The Car that sounds like it was made for a Bond film, and ends on 505, a 2007 guitar track that recently became a hit on TikTok.

Songs from The Car don’t blend into the back catalogue as well as you may wish: in these moments, they sound less like Arctic Monkeys, more like Alex Turner featuring Arctic Monkeys. They’ve made the call to perform the new album live without strings, which strips back some of its seductive opulence. Body Paint, the standout track on The Car for being the most fun, is an exception, the piano notes furiously stabbed out and brilliant in isolation.

The entire band, expanded to seven members on stage, are so polished that it’s easy to enjoy the spectacle without dwelling too much on the genre shifts. During some of the more elegiac crooning, I craved the energy of tracks I’d already heard, like Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? – recited word-perfect by the crowd – or the moody Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair. But when every note sounds so spot on, who truly cares? Turner no longer has to bet you look good on the dancefloor; now, he’s wooed us all there for a slow dance.

Under all the rock god theatrics, there’s a glimpse of warmth at the end when Turner lingers on stage alone, to revel in the applause and blow kisses to the cheap seats. But of course, the sunglasses stay on.


It’s a cloudy night in Melbourne, but of course the sunglasses stay on. There are few frontmen touring today who lean into the theatrics of rockstardom as effortlessly as Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys. At least these days, it seems like he’s enjoying it. When I last saw Turner perform in London a few years back, with his side-act the Last Shadow Puppets, he could barely stand straight. Standing on stage at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, kicking off the Australian leg of their latest album tour, he seems positively chipper.

This tour is “very sold out”, the promoter says beforehand; Australians have loved Arctic Monkeys since they crashed on to Triple J with I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor back in 2006. Almost 20 years on and six albums later, the band understandably now sounds very different. Gone is in the indie snarling of their early albums, and the greaser slickness of AM. Thankfully, gone too is the cosmic weirdness of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, a jazz-inflected concept album centred around a resort on the moon that confounded some fans.

Now we’re in The Car era of Arctic Monkeys, which stays on the same road as Tranquility: slower, smoother, jazzier. “Rather than strings on top of rock, I was interested in switching the ‘rock band’ bit on and off,” Turner recently told the Guardian about the new album. Thankfully, he also ditched the word salad that distracted on Tranquility, which featured lyrics like “swamp monster with a hard on for connectivity” and “(She looks like fun) Good morning / (She looks like fun) Cheeseburger.” Some critics kindly called it inscrutable. (Some might have just called it babble.)

Reedy in his suit and sunglasses, it is easy to see glimpses of Bob Dylan (who is a fan) in Turner when he’s performing; with every flick of the wrists as he laments space gentrification on Four Stars Out of Five, there’s a shadow of David Byrne too. He gives plenty of devilish hip thrusts and elegant high kicks in the air whenever he achieves a particularly anxious sound on his guitar. He’s fond of a campy turn and stare, which gets the crowd screaming without fail. But still, Turner appears curiously elsewhere on stage, his fingers dancing so effortlessly across his guitar that he looks almost on autopilot. There’s very little chat. “How are you?” he drawls, to wild shrieks. “What a relief.”

Neither Turner nor the band begrudge fans who like the old stuff better than the new stuff, so the setlist is a surprisingly expansive. Opening with ominous new track Sculptures of Anything Goes, we are dropped into the thundering drums of Brianstorm, then the upbeat pulse of Snap Out of It. This pick-and-mix approach continues through to the encore, which starts with There’d Better Be a Mirrorball, a rich ballad from The Car that sounds like it was made for a Bond film, and ends on 505, a 2007 guitar track that recently became a hit on TikTok.

Songs from The Car don’t blend into the back catalogue as well as you may wish: in these moments, they sound less like Arctic Monkeys, more like Alex Turner featuring Arctic Monkeys. They’ve made the call to perform the new album live without strings, which strips back some of its seductive opulence. Body Paint, the standout track on The Car for being the most fun, is an exception, the piano notes furiously stabbed out and brilliant in isolation.

The entire band, expanded to seven members on stage, are so polished that it’s easy to enjoy the spectacle without dwelling too much on the genre shifts. During some of the more elegiac crooning, I craved the energy of tracks I’d already heard, like Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? – recited word-perfect by the crowd – or the moody Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair. But when every note sounds so spot on, who truly cares? Turner no longer has to bet you look good on the dancefloor; now, he’s wooed us all there for a slow dance.

Under all the rock god theatrics, there’s a glimpse of warmth at the end when Turner lingers on stage alone, to revel in the applause and blow kisses to the cheap seats. But of course, the sunglasses stay on.

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