Glastonbury Review: Arctic Monkeys

June 25, 2023

Breath was bated. There was next-to-no elbow room. Anticipation was vertiginously high It was third time that Alex Turner and co climbed Glastonbury’s pyramid stage for a headline performance. Sadly, the consensus apparent on Twitter was right: this was by far their most underwhelming visit to Worthy Farm.

Here’s some key evidence for the prosecution: when pockets of the departing crowd are walking away post-set bellowing tunes that the act didn’t play it speaks volumes. And when you pair this impromptu singalong of When the Sun Goes Down with the fact that you could hear a pin drop between the end of the main set and the encore, you have an anti-climax that’s up there with the Game of Thrones finale. It was a telling, and damning, indictment of a performance that desperately lacked cohesion, passion and connection.

It didn’t start too poorly though. Sculptures of Anything Goes into Brianstorm and Snap Out of It was a powerful opening that showcased the admirable journey of this celebrated British group. Sure, Turner may have looked like Bryan Ferry from the neck down and Bono from the neck up, and the backdrop may have resembled a kitsch 1970s music TV special, but all this could have worked if there was an ounce of authentic charisma charging through the spectacle. Sadly, there wasn’t. It felt artificial.

And this evaluation hurts. Most of us love this band deep into our core. And let us not forget that Turner has always been the most self-assured of lyricists: a talent that emerged onto the public’s consciousness fully-formed. An arch wordsmith that transcended his influences, and a composer of lines so memorable that they are etched onto the collective memories of the generation in front of whom they were born, and ones that have followed since.

But now he seems lost, untethered from his roots, flailing in the ether in the performer’s version of an identity crisis nightmare. From the side lines, it’s hard to discern who he is trying to be and what he’s trying to do. It’s a funny spectacle. He has the peculiar, untrustworthy air of a musical snake oil salesman: exhibiting cold calculation in his choreographed moves. It’s unsettling and it creates distance between band and fan.

It’s a pity, because recent album The Car is good. It’s just a long way from the street urchin scruff of the mid-noughties and their diaristic documents of inner-city life. After all, this was a son of Sheffield who co-opted a line of Albert Finney’s dialogue from 1960’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning for the title of their debut album. That particular film spoke of the trials and tribulations of working-class life. That’s not in any way connected to the sheen and shine of the Monkeys’ frontman standing in front of us today.

As Turner and his band slip off the stage following an admittedly satisfying, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor and R U Mine?, you find yourself mulling over the increasing chasm between the majority of their fanbase who are rooted in their output up to 2013, and the band in front of them who are seemingly desperate to put considerable daylight between their present and their past. For most fans, Arctic Monkeys’ adolescence is looking increasingly fluorescent through nostalgia’s bittersweet viewfinder.

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