Arctic Monkeys Glastonbury review

Arctic Monkeys at Glastonbury 2023 review | Prodigious rockers kick-off headline proceedings

After allaying fears they wouldn’t be able to perform, Arctic Monkeys showed why they’ve been called upon three times to headline Glastonbury – with a crooning, charismatic Alex Turner at the helm and a set that weaved greatest hits with fresh additions.


Last summer, Arctic Monkeys headlined Reading and Leeds Festivals with a swaggering, glitzy set that leant into the quiet beauty of 2018’s Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino and its more orchestral follow-up The Car. With the band sharing a stage with the bombastic Bring Me The Horizon and an electrifying The 1975, Arctic Monkeys seemed more introspective than usual, making for a divisive set that was as frustrating as it was brilliant.

Alex Turner Glastonbury

Fresh from their very first stadium tour, tonight should be a breezy walk on the farm for Arctic Monkeys but with vocalist Alex Turner coming down with a bought of “acute Laryngitis” in the days leading up to the gig, there was an air of uncertainty leading up to the Glastonbury 2023’s first Pyramid headline set. Rumours have been buzzing around all weekend that they weren’t going to make it; and that everyone from Foo Fighters, Blur, The 1975, Harry Styles and Pulp were waiting in the wings.

When the band walk out onstage, though, the reaction from the crowd is sheer euphoria. This festival doesn’t want anyone else, and the Arctic Monkeys know it. Without saying a word, the band confidently launches into the otherworldly sci-fi shimmer of ‘Sculptures Of Anything Goes’. It’s about as far away as you can get from the ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco that started their career, but the band have never been one for doing what others have wanted. Still, with the hammering ‘Brianstorm’ whipping the busy field into a frenzy, tonight is the closest the group have come to play a greatest hits set.

From the sneering ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ through the coming-of-age electricity of ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ to an almighty ‘Mardy Bum’, tonight’s gig is fierce, focused and phenomenal. Sure, Turner is as aloof as ever (“Yes, The Monkeys are back on the farm. Wow,” is about as close as he gets to making an impassioned speech), but he remains a swaggering frontman, switching merrily between poised conductor and all-out rock n’ roll star. It’s impossible to argue with an extended, thunderous ‘R U Mine?’ while ‘505’ continues to evolve and take on new life.

And the Glastonbury crowd loves it – and laps it up. Flares regularly erupt into life from various points of the field while everything from ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ to ‘Why’d You Only Ever Call Me When You’re High?’ feels like a modern classic. Even the newer material is getting there, with ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ and ‘Body Paint’ starting to find their place within the triumphant set and the Monkeys’ fanbase.

This may be Arctic Monkeys’ third time headlining Glastonbury, but for the first time in their career, the group are starting to embrace their epic legacy while still pushing things forward. As Turner himself said at the end of a magical, swooning ‘Four Out of Five’, “Effective, very effective. What a night,” and we couldn’t agree more. The band may have started writing songs about the poetry of everyday life, but they’re now at their best when they’re out of this world.

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