This week The Arctic Monkeys sold out four consecutive nights at the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena. They now move out of town to sold out shows in Birmingham, Sheffield, Dublin and Newcastle.
Such is the clamour for all things Arctic Monkey, they even sold out of tickets for a gallery exhibition in fashionable Fitzrovia, which saw hourly queues of ticket holders clamouring to see a series of photographs taken by Zachery Michael, a photographer friend of the band, while they were making latest album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
Given The Arctic Monkeys are cover stars of the latest Big Issue, expect to see even that sell out pretty swiftly.
The O2 Arena show, from which these photographs were taken on Wednesday, showed business as usual.
Alex Turner has morphed into Lee Brilleaux – the bear-like Alpha Male of Dr Feelgood – resplendent in flared white suit, a lounge lizard extraordinaire.
A rock band often benefits from a confident front man with cockiness and charm. In Turner’s case it does rather come across as a persona. Perhaps most performers slip into character when they go onstage – Beyoncé talks of her “Sasha Fierce” persona – and it seems as though Turner is going through his Bono-on-the-Zooropa-tour-Mr-MacPhisto stage.
He strides the stage, spinning out the witty one-liners in his songs, remaining relatively mono-syllabic in between songs. It’s the opposite approach to Noel Gallagher, who seems to save all his clever lines for his interviews…
The sure-footed alpha-male persona is also a contrast to the softer image of a band that appears on the cover of The Big Issue and who quietly donate the proceeds of their photographic exhibition to homeless charity Centre point.
The gallery exhibition, which moves to Sheffield next week includes some memorable images: a panoramic shot of Turner astride a scooter powering across a desert plain, Turner again hoovering a gauche ‘60s style carpet in a grand ballroom at 2am, Turner having Matt Helders cut his hair, and Turner sitting in a batmobile for a video shoot
Zachery Michael’s long friendship with the band results in their being comfortable around him – there’s a trust evident – which leads to pleasingly relaxed, intimate results.
The collection features photographs shot between November 2017 and August 2018 in the lead up to the recording of the Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino album in the small town of La-Frette-sur-Seine, a studio 15 minutes outside the centre of Paris.
Perhaps best of all is a short cine-film shot during recording sessions at La Frette.
It reveals a band at ease with themselves while working hard, recording the album in a homely studio, playing up to the camera in a friendly and jokey way. This relaxed and unguarded vibe is a sharp contrast to Turner’s stage persona. It also suggests the album was more a band effort than the quasi-Alex Turner solo album some have speculated about.
The O2 Arena show was an impressive performance from a band seemingly at a peak. For those looking to see what lies behind the facade, the gallery exhibition gives us a brief glimpse at the substance behind the style.