By Grace Wartman
Local Music Journalist
As all Spotify users know, the thrill of checking out your Spotify wrapped as the year comes to a close is an excitement unlike any other. Arctic Monkeys has been my top artist for the past five years, and the cherry on top of the sweetness that was my 2022’s listening statistics was that I was in the British boy-band’s top 0.2% of listeners. When AM announced their North America tour last October, I put my name on the presale list faster than the car that the band’s new album revolves around could ever dream of going.
The night kicked off with tour opener Fontaines D.C. – a post-punk Irish five piece with a sound similar to the one heard in Arctic Monkeys’ first studio recordings. They included five songs from their recent album, Skinty Fia. Their 2022 album has a sinister feel to it with an album cover of a deer standing in a red-lit room with a cross on the wall and the ceaselessly repetitive chant of Irish phrase “In ár gCroithe,” which translates to “in our hearts forever.” That same eerie energy was brought to stage with dark lighting and bass acoustics being turned up higher than most groups I’ve seen live. Lead singer Grain Chatten added to the ominous Stinky Fia energy by pacing around the stage in a way that kept the crowd – mostly consisting of millennial Arctic Monkeys listeners and those who look like they crawled out of an iPhone 4 from tumblr.com – engaged through the entirety of their brief eight song set.
It was clear that Arctic Monkeys acknowledges that most of their fan base prefer their old music over the jazzier sound they have been swinging in their two most recent albums, which speaks highly of their care for the concert experiences they deliver to fans. However, frontman Alex Turner didn’t let the show be entirely the crowd’s by singing off rhythm – a quirky bit he’s been notorious for doing in his recent performances.
Alex and guitarist Jamie Cook play together like two sides of a zipper being intertwined together by both the pull of the momentum of the song and the insane energy produced from the crowd. The two split riffs like a conversation. Warm stage lighting, a vintage film iris shot sort of effect within background videography, and Alex Turner dressed like a businessman who just sat down at the bar of a jazz club after a stressful day at work allowed the performance to visually reflect the mood embedded in their most recent album, The Car’s overall sound.
Arctic Monkeys sits in the driver’s seat (probably with a pair of aviators on) and takes listeners on a tranquil, contemplative night drive with The Car after years of flooring the gas pedal with the high energy of previous albums. The band’s setlist consisted of only three songs from The Car, but all three tunes had a certain emphasis, such as visual effects and extended outros, on them that the songs pulled from earlier albums lacked. My favorite song of the night was from The Car, something I wasn’t expecting, simply because of how it was executed on stage. The studio recording of “Body Paint” is like looking at an artwork from afar while the musical elements of the live version provided details and texture that meet the eye as you work your way closer to the piece. The tune’s outro included shades of their third studio album, Humbug, and a mesmerizing guitar riff, heavy percussion, piano melodies that sound like they belong in the score of a movie, and the highest bits of Turner’s vocal range worked seamlessly together to bring both their older rock material and newer experimental work into one sound. While it was nice to hear a lot of their earlier material, this was a pivoting point in my concert experience as it incorporated all colors of their discography.
Arctic Monkeys begins their first studio album, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not, with the lyrics, “anticipation has the habit to set you up for disappointment in evening entertainment”, in the song “The View From The Afternoon,” but not a bit of the evening was disappointing, and the 11-month-long anticipation was well worth it. The changes in creative approach that they continue to make are what keeps the vehicle that is Arctic Monkeys’ music cruising, and as a big fan by Spotify listening analytics means, I’m stoked to see which route they take from here.
Written by: Cayla Soriano