The Alex Turner Show overpowers Arctic Monkeys on hit-and-miss night in Dublin
What do you want from Arctic Monkeys 2018, then?
On the Luas on the way to night two of Arctic Monkeys' Dublin double header, the usual rank and file of pre-gig revelry begins to shrink the space and cloud the windows.
Each stop brings further faces, noise and excitement. The standard pilgrimage.
What kind of gig are we going to, then?
Arctic Monkeys 2018 is a strange beast, one that dwells, lizard-like, in a plush, knowing art installation that's purpose-built for cutting commentary on... something or other.
The boys from Sheffield are in town on the back of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, their sixth studio-sanctioned adventure and easily their most divisive to date.
You won't find short, snappy relatable bangers on this one, kids.
What is ostensibly an Alex Turner solo album feels, some four months and change on, more like a thing to admire rather than adore.
Concept records are often unwieldy voyages, but there's something admittedly quite brilliant about the band who broke out with 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' moving into an outer space resort in order to chill.
Clip via Official Arctic Monkeys
Still, most punters part with their hard-earned cash in order to see their favourite band play the hits.
Can past and present co-exist in the 3Arena of a late September Tuesday evening?
Kind of. It's all a bit weird, you see. And quite boring at regular intervals.
The stage is a work of garish beauty; all '70s pastels in the layout of an old talk show or a residency on a stratospheric escape. A jump-suited camera operator stalks the stage. The leading light is framed by a grainy retro film filter on side-by-side screens.
At once, it is both expansive and claustrophobic, topped off with a lighting rig lifted from a Stanley Kubrick film (Kanye did it better) that lowers every now and then, the strings visible as if to pull back the curtain and let you know that this is indeed all one big piss-take.
But who is this all for, exactly? In what direction is the smirk aimed?
'Star Treatment' opens proceedings, Turner perched at a piano as his various players - for they belong to him - take up their positions. Glossy, clean, precise, cold.
Atmosphere is hard to come by until the likes of 'Brianstorm' and '505' steal in, their verve, promise and punch utterly undeniable even in the face of so much wandering crooning.
Those inside the packed house don't seem to be too fazed by the disjointed narrative.
This is an arthouse presentation with blockbuster appeal, and the cult of Arctic Monkeys continues to swell amidst the glittering glow.
Turner, decked out like Springsteen in his pomp, swaggers about the stage.
'Cornerstone' booms as its author's eyes dart in several directions. One fan, fond of clapping out of time like a deranged seal, roars for the frontman to acknowledge his flock, but it's not quite that kind of gig, mate.
Sure, there are cursory name drops of Dublin for the cheap pop, and a bemused pause when the inevitable 'Ole, Ole' chant arrives ('twas ever thus), but this is the big screen adaptation of self-indulgence.
You wonder if the audience even matter to Turner, and what his bandmates - carefully deployed pawns with little agency of their own - make of the shift.
Matt Helders, for all his drumming heroics and a floor tom that sounds like a cannon capable of winning any war, rarely gets the chance to properly unleash.
It's an odd mix, this new and old. The hits, what little of them there are, hit, but in this environment it all comes to feel a touch hollow.
'Dancefloor' does what it does, and 'Four Out of Five' cements its place as the pick of the latest litter, extended outro and all. Smiles on faces, job done, fair enough?
The curious case of Arctic Monkeys 2018 Edition, then. They've journeyed to the moon and back, but the sense that they got lost in a desert five years ago remains.