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  • Matt Codd

THEY’RE HOME! Arctic Monkeys play Triumphant Homecoming Show at Hillsborough Park


Photography: Lili Corrigan @lili_takesflickis

Friday 9th June, a night of homecomings across the UK. Last year’s Tramlines headliner Sam Fender played to a packed St. James’ Park. This year’s headliner The Courteeners celebrated 15 years of their debut at Heaton Park in Manchester. But, best of all, the biggest indie-rock band on the planet brought their stunning tour to their hometown. Arctic Monkeys wowed a Sheffield crowd for the first time in almost 5 years with a career-spanning, standard-setting performance.


Hillsborough Park has had plenty of practice hosting enormous gigs over the last few years, since becoming home field for Tramlines Festival in 2018, but I don’t think anyone could have been prepared for what Arctic Monkeys and co. brought to the table. In the official tour programme, published in association with Big Issue and well worth picking up whether you go or not, drummer Matt Helders says that the tour “all seems like a bit of a celebration … I don’t know what it is about this time – maybe it’s just me, particularly, having a lot more fun.”


The night was kicked off by Liverpool outfit The Mysterines, who didn’t look out of place playing their grungy riffs to the largest crowd of the tour yet. Following them were the Swedish kings The Hives, who are actually from Sheffield and were made from the same steel that made Sheffield famous - if you believe lead singer Pelle Almqvist, I don’t have any reason not to.


The Hives were exceptional, they have long been hailed as one of the best live bands around and it is easy to see why. The entire band brings an energy to match their high-octane discography, fusing their most popular 2000s bangers with tracks from their “soon to be award-winning album” The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons. As Pelle said during the set “you may not be Hives fans now, but you will be once we’re done”.


The field was buzzing when it finally came time for the main event, as the sun glistened on the mammoth stage, Sheffield’s favourite sons appeared. I’m sure any in the crowd, me included, would’ve hoped they had a treat planned for the hometown and they did with the opening tune. A tour debut, and first full performance since 2013 of the closer from their acclaimed debut album, ‘A Certain Romance’ – My all-time favourite Monkeys song. I couldn’t quite believe I was hearing it live. From there, the career-spanning set dived headfirst into ‘Brianstorm’, the opener from their sophomore album, sending the crowd into a frenzy as it always does.


Photography: Lili Corrigan @lili_takesflickis

It doesn’t take long to notice that this is not the same Arctic Monkeys that played the arena five years ago, let alone The Grapes almost 20 years ago. While a lot of bands may stop playing old tunes as they move forward through their careers, the Arctic Monkeys simply rework them to fit the band that they are today. That’s not to say that it makes the songs any less impactful, in fact it’s more the opposite, a lot of tracks benefit from it.


While it may have become a meme that Alex Turner refuses to allow crowds to sing along anymore, with his slower, deeper delivery, it is also a myth. The lyrics now ebb and flow along with the music more than ever. When you have a discography as varied, wide-ranging and universally known as they do, it would be impossible to switch from a cut from Whatever People Say I Am to one from The Car without some self-editing. The band marry the frantic garage rock of their early years and the lovelorn, aching ballads of current Monkeys with purpose, precision and brilliance.


The career spanning setlist, as always, showed why the Sheffielders are the worldwide phenomenon that they are. Turner’s current crooner persona was on full display for the beautiful ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Do I Wanna Know’, while the entire band swaggered their way down memory lane, delighting the crowd at every turn with every song.


It’s hard to pick a stand-out part of any Arctic Monkeys gig but hearing songs live for the first time is always hard to beat. As you will no doubt have seen on this tour, the band have given new life to some of their most beloved tracks in ‘Mardy Bum’ and ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’. Hearing upwards of 40,000 people singing not only the lyrics, but the actual guitar riff of much adored tunes is something else.


Photography: Lili Corrigan @lili_takesflickis

They brought the set to a close in a suitable impressive fashion. As the achingly beautiful lyrics of the cinematic ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ began to fade in, a giant Monkeys branded mirrorball descended, lighting up the stage and scene with a shimmer much akin to the one being produced by the band on stage. Leading from this straight into the beautiful ‘505’ was heavenly, a song recently buoyed by the masses on TikTok and one that resonated with one and all screaming “I crumble completely when you cry”. Closing the set was the power rock of ‘Body Paint’, which left the crowd dying to hear more.


Of course, being the crowd-pleasers they are, the Arctic Monkeys duly obliged. After a brief break, they returned for what can only be described as a victory lap of an encore. Opening with their gorgeous musicalisation of John Cooper Clarke’s poem ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, it highlighted where the band are best, in their current iteration. As exciting and crazed their performances of tracks like ‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Teddy Picker’ are, the wow moments can now be found in the slower ballads like this.


To close the magical evening, there was only two songs they could possibly choose. First, the song that truly started it all, ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ immediately transported the crowd back to the early 2000s. The song that had a young Alex Turner say “don’t believe the hype” now has the Monkeys towering above all. But, while most would have that as a closer, we got one more jolt. The opus that is ‘R U Mine’ was the final track. The stomping beat, infectious riffs and energised, rapid fire lyrics came together for a crescendo, a true celebration of this special band from our city.


Perhaps Turner described it best after finishing one of the more tender moments on the list, the singer simply set his guitar aside and said “sensational”. I’m not sure if he was talking about us in the crowd or him and his bandmates … But nothing could be more true.


Photography: Lili Corrigan @lili_takesflickis

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