With a career-spanning set, Arctic Monkeys bring their signature sound to Melbourne in a sold-out show
At the first of two sold-out shows at Rod Laver Arena, Arctic Monkeys opened with an unsettling red flash of light and then 'Four Out of Five'.
Back in 2005, Sheffield rock band Arctic Monkeys went straight to the top with their debut single 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor' and everything since then has been ever-changing in the world of the four Brits – Alex Turner, Matt Helders, Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley (who joined in 2006).
One thing that you may remember about that song was its 1980s filter employing music video, shimmering to the sound of dance-punk. Turns out even 14 years on, Arctic Monkeys love that classic tinge. Much like their 2008 live DVD At the Apollo, the video footage projecting at their recent sold-out Melbourne show on 26 February was equally nostalgic in its presentation.
It could be argued that nostalgia plays a big part in the band’s latest album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which released in May last year. Heavily referencing everything from Stanley Kubrick’s films to Blade Runner and lunar missions, Arctic Monkeys put one foot in science-fiction and another in an alternate universe, aiming to make lounge music cool again.
At the first of two sold-out shows at Rod Laver Arena (sold-out in name only, considering we saw quite a few seats), Arctic Monkeys opened with an unsettling red flash of light and then 'Four Out of Five'. Alex Turner – who sports long hair and a white suit in the music video, has gone from a full head shaven look to now sporting short hair much like 2009’s Humbug days. He’s got a suit on, though, which seemed to showcase a look that mixed and matched all creative eras of the band’s sonic history.
That was pretty much what their 21-song setlist was all about as well – career-spanning, though the fuzzy action of Humbug to the groovy too-cool rock of AM and hectic diversity of albums like Suck It and See and Favourite Worst Nightmare. Straight after introducing Tranquility Base songs, the band launched into the maddening energy of 'Brianstorm' and sing-along happy vibes 'Snap Out of It', followed by heavier songs like 'Crying Lightning' and 'Arabella'. Turner occasionally stepped away from his guitar and keys to entertain their onstage cameraman, almost acting for the audiences who were too far to catch his expressions.
Joined by four live musicians on guitar, percussion and keys, all the Tranquility Base songs like 'One Point Perspective' and 'Science Fiction' were perfectly executed. Songs like 'Cornerstone' got a big cheer, but even older songs like 'Teddy Picker' and the emotional '505' sat just right for an arena-rock night. They picked up the soul with the seductive 'Knee Socks' and cranked up the volume on 'Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair'. If the response to 'Knee Socks' was anything to go by, it’s without a doubt that their 2013 album AM was easily the key to their return to mainstream pop glory. When they kicked into 'Do I Wanna Know?' everyone was off their seats and singing along, and the usual lethargy associated with hit songs – if there was any – didn’t show during the band’s performance.
After the tumbling rock of 'Pretty Visitors', the band launched into 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor' as perhaps the greatest hit for last, but they came back for an encore to deliver three more. First, the well-lit, swiveling centerpiece that features on Tranquility Base’s artwork came down and lit up for 'Star Treatment', as Turner asked “What do you mean you’ve never seen Blade Runner?” in a song that essentially covers topics of fame and celebrity culture.
The irony in Arctic Monkeys’ music clearly hasn’t faded over time, as a bright LED sign shining their name “MONKEYS” comes down for the encore, there’s 'No 1 Party Anthem', a deliberate slow, melancholic song that’s named as if it was a hit. Acknowledging the success of AM, they closed with 'R U Mine?' perhaps now identified as signature Arctic Monkeys, minus any irony.
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