Review: Arctic Monkeys, Ageas Bowl, Southampton – June 14

Review: Arctic Monkeys, Ageas Bowl, Southampton – June 14

by Nick Mabey

On Tuesday at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, Arctic Monkeys were in town bringing sun, great music, and Alex Turner’s iconic Sheffield strut. Crowds arrived early and in massive numbers to enjoy everything the evening had to offer.  The food may have been a little overpriced but everything else was spot-on.  

The sun was setting behind the spectacular stage, almost blinding, for the first of the warm-up acts, Liverpool-based band The Mysterines, whose lead singer, Lia Metcalfe, displayed impressive vocals in a lively set.  They were followed by acclaimed Swedish rockers, The Hives, whose singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist provokingly described their performance as the filler in the sandwich  between The Mysterines and Arctic Monkeys.  With such bravado, The Hives needed to deliver and they did.  Pelle, now recovered from his unfortunate microphone-related injury at the Manchester performance, was an entertaining frontman. His constant back and forth with the crowd was great fun. Amongst many great songs, Countdown to Shutdown was a personal favourite and a perfect song to encore with.

By the time Arctic Monkeys came on stage the sun had gone down, behind the stage and not ‘over the river going out of town’ (a classic they sadly didn’t perform). This didn’t stop, ultra-cool group leader, Alex Turner, from donning sunglasses intermittently throughout the almost two-hour set.  Their performance kicked off with Brianstorm ( for the uninitiated that’s not a typo); the impact of the drums and guitars was immediate and powerful.  

Arctic Monkeys are a fantastic stadium band, with enough anthemic songs and rock ’n’ roll charisma to hold the largest of crowds’ (45,000 according to Howlin’ Pelle) attention. For this tour the set is stylish but not over-ornate, with no need for complex staging, theatrics or pyrotechnics. 

There were the ubiquitous big screens of course, and these had what I can only describe as a VHS filter. It gave off a similar vibe to the film Submarine, which Alex Turner wrote an incredible soundtrack for. At the Ageas Bowl the band oozed an arrogant style combined with memorable songs and a tight, high quality performance.  I give my age away when I say that, as a band, they remind me of the Jam; and in Alex Turner, they have a frontman to match the ability, super-stylishness and arrogance of Paul Weller in his pomp.

With seven studio albums under their belt, there was always going to be plenty of missing classics, but the set was still rammed with songs from across their seventeen-year career. The only surprise to me was how few songs were featured from their latest album, The Car, which is unusual and refreshing. Tunes like Fluorescent Adolescent and Mardy Bum were obvious favourites for any keen British rock fan, but what was equally impressive was how strong the performances were for the slower songs like 505 and There’d Better Be A Mirror Ball (for which, of course, a mirror ball descended).

I panicked when they left the stage without playing my favourite, I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor, which I would boldly describe as the best pop/rock song of the 21st century so far, and a cultural document that will help describe noughties urban life in northern England for future generations.   Luckily for me they chose to include it, along with Wanna Be Yours and Are you Mine? in a triumphant encore.

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