(May 30, 2011 in Denver, Colorado) The Arctic Monkeys are one of those bands notorious for shooting their load for every crowd. Some artists come and pretend swagger, or they attempt replication of studio sounds on stage; they play to expectations of crowd and label, or they appear exhausted by the rigmarole of touring and as if they'd rather be anywhere but on stage. The Arctic Monkeys have arrived at notoriety for a reason. Turning up old-school, uncynical, energized rockers, they play the living hell out of every song, and serve each song as if it may be the last, or best representation of themselves.
Perhaps famed for changing the shape of modern music marketing, employing MySpace as a means of distribution of unsigned yet infamous tunes and incorporating the Internet as a strategical method of reaching the crowds before Domino Records so very wisely snapped 'em up, here is a band that broke all records as being the fastest-selling debut UK album of all time. However, they still do things the old fashioned way. They turn up, they plug in, and they play bare-knuckle loud. Every sinew and every song is pounded out like a bomb designed to level the building in which they're housed.
Currently touring the States in a preemptive strike before dropping studio album number four, Suck It And See, the Monkeys arrived in Denver like a controlled explosion, with a cool, tight and mannered performance.
Taking to the stage like workmen pulling feet into boots, the Monkeys got their heads down, put their shoulders to the wheel, and beat out tracks at increased tempo. The sold-out crowd fell just short of rabid. Seriously. Rare are those moments when such musical chemistry becomes combustible so quickly after ignition. The place went off, and went off again, and again with each wave of Arctic attack.
Accompanying loud music, drum assaults, and wailing guitar lines, Alex Turner's lyrics are humble, poetic, true to the finest elements of genre, and just as visionary as those from names that are now considered legendary. "All the pretty visitors came and waved their arms / and cast the shadow of a snake-pit on the wall" was a line shared in the Ogden Theater as the spotlights swung about, the hands were raised, and the shadows did as described. Other moments where nuance played with suggestion, slang, and double meaning were the moments that the crowd sang the loudest. This really felt like a peculiar home-coming gig. If not 'home' as place, 'home' as like-minded folk that couldn't find this connection elsewhere.
The rest of the night rang like a sing-along of modern classics. Alex Turner rarely lifted focus from the songs as they bled from one into another. Proceedings were very cool, very well-mannered, and very English. Chit-chat was kept to a minimum. Despite the punctuative "thanks" between every song, “You seem to be in a really good mood, Denver. Is that fair to say?” Was the longest (somewhat understated reaction to crowd eagerness) break between tunes.
It's an exercise of discipline and supernatural awareness when considering a set-list that pleases and sustains the interest of the entire crowd from start to finish. Material was plucked from all four of the band's albums. The running order peppered with newest songs between the crowd-pleasers. New, unfamiliar tracks surfed in on the vitriol of older favorites. No song was delivered without the full choir of the crowd. Even more recent, less familiar tracks drew choral chants or raised arms.
“Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair” came as one of the highlights of the night. The lead single from Suck It And See brings together the best Arctic Monkey elements of heavyweight guitars, deep thrusting bass hooks, and twisted lyrics. There's a reliance on dark humor and intelligence of wit to get a bit deeper than usual pop fare. And this is pop for all its edge, abrasion, and alternative vibes; the music appeals to radio and TV, and it is all ultimately singable. Take away distortion and screaming feedback; the melodies are sensitive, the lyrics are reflective without being sentimental, and the atmosphere is everyone's.
It's testament to the Monkeys' fanbase and the relationship with lyrical content that no one song outshone another. Each track, even the new stuff, carried the weight of strange familiarity and arrived like favorite following favorite. This wasn't just a crowd turning up for the 'known' singles and the safety of a fashionable scene. The Monkeys didn't play it safe either. They simply set out their lines and led the crowd, confident in material, proud of substance, and as in tune as any band has ever been. Nothing was taken for granted, there was no sense of entitlement. Here was a band that obviously loved proving their gear.
If work ethic, musicianship, and material substance somehow get blended in the right proportions, and if the crowd takes responsibility for their side of the bargain, a kind of explosive alchemy can happen at a rock show. What The Arctic Monkeys do is detonate the reaction -- things get melted, beaten, and blinded. It's brilliant, and the sounds continue to ring ears whilst the lyrics spiral and haunt, long after the final encore. There aren't many shows that you absolutely shouldn't miss. The Arctic Monkeys is one of them. You'll then have a new standard by which to measure heat, light, and sound.
Standout Tracks: "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor," "Pretty Visitors"
For Fans Of: The Fratellis, The White Stipes, Oasis, Kasabian