Carrow Road, Norwich June 7, 2023
by Paul Hammerton
Heading towards Norwich City’s Carrow Road stadium, there’s a buzz in the air and perhaps a greater sense of anticipation than there’s been ahead of recent Canaries games.
This, after all, is the night that the Arctic Monkeys’ Car Tour hits Norwich.
It is a hard job for an opening act on a tour like this. On stage at 6.30pm with the venue less than half-full, The Mysterines do well to carry those near the front of the crowd with them.
With singer Lia Metcalfe in an eye-catching red and white jacket, the Liverpool outfit do enough to mean it’s worth looking out for them when they return to a more intimate venue around here.
They are followed, as the stadium starts to fill up, by The Hives – regular visitors to Norwich over the years.
While their walk-on music is funereal, their entrance certainly isn’t as they launch straight into Bogus Operandi.
All clad in matching monochrome suits adorned with musical notes, they look like a Mexican Mariachi band dressed for the Day Of The Dead. But Mariachi music this certainly isn’t – it’s high-energy rock from a band used playing for large crowds.
Frontman Pelle Almqvist – who appears to have recovered from his self-inflicted mic wound in Manchester last week – is keen to highlight his Swedish origins with a new take on the Viking raids: “We came to Norwich, improved it a bit, then handed it back.”
Energetic drummer Chris Dangerous soon sheds his jacket, but otherwise the visual appeal of the band continues right through to the end of their set.
They hit plenty of high spots, with the aforementioned opener and Hate to Say I Told You So among the highlights.
The constant instructions from Almqvist to sit down, raise your right arm, aim for 1,385% rock and roll etc might be grating for some, but they know how to milk audience acclaim.
And special mention should go to the two ninja-like stagehands who appear and disappear behind the mighty white “H.I.V.E.S.” lettered statues, as well as assisting on tambourine. They rightly get to take a bow at the end of the set.
After they leave, the entertainment continues as an exuberant gymnast/dancer wearing an orange dress (and not much else) entertains the crowd at the River End with cartwheels, forward rolls and the splits. It’s certainly a change from the usual Carrow Road half-time diversion of Tampa Bay zorb-ball…
As they hit the stage, Arctic Monkeys launch into old favourite The View From The Afternoon. In contrast to The Hives, the Monkeys let the music do the talking with minimal chat between songs.
Frontman Alex Turner – sporting a new luxuriant shagpile hairstyle, dark glasses, a blazer and a scarf/cravat – looks a far cry from his first appearance in Norwich nearly two decades ago, and the band’s image continues to change as their sound evolves.
Tonight’s setlist spans their career, with tracks from last year’s album The Car nicely balanced by earlier tracks, and the wide age-range of the crowd means that all the songs are greeted keenly.
We get to enjoy a wide range of styles, from indie, punk, rock, pop, AOR and MOR to out-and-out cocktail lounge.
Arabella goes down particularly well but the best reception is reserved for Mardy Bum, which had been inexplicably dropped from their set for more than 10 years before this current UK tour.
It’s the one song in which Turner’s Sheffield accent shines through. When it was last performed in Norwich 17 years ago it was a plaintive view of their current lives. Now it feels like a nostalgic view back to a previous life, but it retains its emotion.
The rapid-fire vocals and guitar of Teddy Picker is another standout, though there’ll also be plenty of votes for Do I Wanna Know, Fluorescent Adolescent and Cornerstone.
For locals used to the more usual gigs around here in venues that give them a close connection to the performers, the experience of a Carrow Road gig is different. But despite the scale of tonight’s proceedings, there are no pyrotechnics or confetti guns as the set doesn’t need such distractions, although There’d Better Be A Mirrorball closes with a descending Monkeys customised glitterball above the stage.
For the encore, we’re treated to the words of Dr John Cooper Clarke before the frenzy of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor and R U Mine? bring things to a glorious end.
For ticket-holders in the River End, the 30 yards of empty space on the pitch in front of them – for safety? – dissipates the sense of community with those on the pitch (although at least the crowd at that end of the stadium get to enjoy the lass in the orange dress providing further entertainment here).
But that’s a minor quibble, and the walk home after three hours of great entertainment does indeed make a refreshing change from the usual recent trips to Carrow Road.
So while the football team might be going through something of a reboot at the moment, let’s hope that those tasked with bringing these acts to the stadium manage to maintain this standard.