Arctic Monkeys swaggered onto the MEN Arena stage to ”ËœYou Sexy Thing’, played 18 songs, and left confirming their status as idols of a generation. But of course, you expected that anyway.

The Vaccines were on supporting duty, a band at that snowball of hype stage that the Arctics are probably all too familiar with. They succeeded in pacifying an eager crowd, and the reaction down at the front to some of the radio hits such as ”ËœNorgard’ and ”ËœIf You Wanna’ were on a par with a couple of the headliners’.

Arctic Monkeys / The Vaccines – Manchester MEN Arena – 3.11.11
Some students, circa 1998 One of the country's biggest bands

As for said headliners, in Alex’s words, they played “some old shit, and some new shit” and for once seemed to get the balance right, satisfying the hardcore faithful and the fans of the new stuff alike. When Suck it and See was released, they arguably hit their stride (for the purposes of this review, we’re going to accept that they did), striking the balance between the teenage politics and kitchen sink stories of their debut with the darker, more refined marmitian flavours of Humbug. Then in true Monkeys’ fashion of doing things painfully illogically, they introduced it to the world with the raging beast that is ‘Brick by Brick’. “Love it, hate it, you’re wrong” drawled Alex when introducing that one – the “wizard Matthew Helders’” moment of glory ”“ with the new found rockstar confidence that seemed to have grown about the same time the quiffs arrived on the scene.

It could be the time in New York, or the new album, or that fact that they’re just getting better at things like this, but you get the impression that they’re not as uneasy about the crowd knowing so many words, like they were in the early days. With Turner’s relentless teasing of the audience, from a suave mid-set quiff comb to pantomime stage banter, pitting sides of the arena against each other in the NYC-tinged drawl, and Helders’ return to acting in the videos for ”ËœSuck it and See’ and latest offering ”ËœEvil Twin’, it almost seems like they’re playing characters. Whereas in the early day’s they’d turn up at award ceremonies dress as the characters of The Wizard of Oz to shun the spotlight, this hybrid James Dean/John Wayne alter ego lives up to the arena rock band status they initially shied away from.

It would be stating the obvious to say that the crowd quite liked it. The new material got an equally warm reception as the old treasures. The melodic pop of ”ËœBlack Treacle’ and ”ËœShe’s Thunderstorms’ was chanted back as word-perfectly as the thundering, speed of light ”ËœBrianstorm’ and ”ËœDancefloor’, though admittedly, by their nature, the majority of battering and bruising originated from the latter category. If anything, they could have got away with a couple more songs from the album the tour was supporting, but if you expect anything of Arctic Monkeys, don’t expect them to stick to the rules.

The encore consisted of the current album’s title track; a euphonious pop song with ironically self-depreciating lyrics, followed by a striped back SIAS-ified ‘Mardy Bum’ – perfectly epitomising Monkeys 4.0 – and perennial closer, the heartbreakingly epic ‘505’. With that their work here was done, onto to the next city to recruit another legion of worshippers and break some more hearts.

Unquestionably Manchester loved them, and by Alex’s own admission, they we’re “mad fer it”. It’s impossible to articulate just what it exactly is about Arctic Monkeys, and would do them a disservice to attempt it, so perhaps it’s best if we just leave the words to Alex Turner.

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