T In The Park 2011 - Arctic Monkeys

Friday night headliners
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It’s gone 10.23pm and they were due on at 10.15pm but the audience still wait. Well, what else is there? Hot chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’ starts up and within moments, the four Sheffield lads take the stage, opening straight into ‘Library Pictures’. Yes, the crowd is limitless and they are moving up and down very manically. Helders thunders straight into ‘Brianstorm’ before Alex adds after the last lyric ’thunder….T in the Park. Good to see you all!’ The crowd screams as if they’ve just received a personal address. ‘This House is a Circus’ catapults them back into the mayhem as the blinding lights of the big wheel go mad in the background. ‘Still Take You Home’ comes next with Alex actually doing some leaning back into Cookie – finally, the cool cats let loose a bit. Their technical brilliance has just upped a few more notches. After a long space, Alex returns to the lyrics: ‘Fancy seeing you here – all tarted up and you don’t look the same’. How appropriate. ‘What do you know? Well, you don’t know nothing but I’d still take you home.’ Very skilfully, they have redressed their previous songs with their new, slightly sexier, more knowing stance. It is very obvious from hearing them play their old songs next to those from ‘Suck It and See’ how very, very far they have travelled as a band. When they play the old, festival-demanding favourites completely straight, there is the desperate sound of a party long since over yet clinging on bravely against the debris of reality crawling back in. The previous anthems now sound somehow harsh, grating and metallic, brutal polaroids from a too-fast youth But is that just because their softer, more melodic songs are cleverer, warmer, sexier and funnier?

‘Thank you. How are you doing, everybody? Are you in a good mood? Is it party time now at T in the Park?’ It’s been party time since 6pm, mate.

The audience relishes ‘Don’t Sit Down cuz I’ve moved the chair’, its perverse lyrics perfect for the inky eeriness of the T in the Park twilight zone. The old songs are enjoyed but, even revisited with the band’s astounding technical ability and reinterpretation, they’re just not true anymore. There’s the ferocity but not the veracity. Clever and festival-prepped like ‘505’ with the apt pairing with Miles Kane, but not beautiful.

It’s the warmer, zanier tunes like ‘Black Treacle’ and ‘Suck it and See’ (no one does temporal poetry like Turner) which cause my frontal lobe to feel warm again.

Still, a blistering performance which pleased everyone. Sake, it’s the Arctic Monkeys! I just feel the report card for them – after all, they are now the crowned 21st century Kings of rock and pop, saving the album charts from reality shows, synthetic pop and Sylvia Young music school protégées – would read ‘Could be braver’. They know skinny jeans, converse trainers, fake tans and Topshop princesses are over – and so do we. But the step forward does not necessarily have to be a step backwards. A wee bit of nostalgia is only good for a moment but then Arctic Monkeys are good at nailing the moment. That’s why they rule.

But I’m still left wanting something true.

Words by Jaime Scrivener
Photos by Colin 'TwoThumbsFresh' McQuillen &
Steven Brown

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