The Arctic Monkeys With Mini Mansions Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie Tuesday, October 29, 2014
Earlier this year, the up-and-coming punk and garage rock band the Orwells spilled the beans on their experience opening for the Arctic Monkeys. They weren't impressed. Guitarist Matt O'Keefe called the band a "hip Backstreet Boys," and claimed that if you saw a show once, then that's fine, nothing ever changes. It's Groundhog Day up there. It's hard to believe, but the Arctic Monkeys are kind of the establishment, or the Man, in the eyes of some young guns from Chicago with the fire of five billion suns in their belly.
It hasn't been a decade since their debut album hit shelves and none of the band members are over 30 (all either 28 or 29). They're the old guys in town now, which hasn't slowed them down a bit. Ever the one with the sharpest tongue in the Western Hemisphere, Arctic Monkeys' frontman Alex Turner, responded to his criticism by saying, "They should have been out trying to get laid instead of watching us every night."
So what if every show was the same? The Arctic Monkeys are the best rock band on the planet and they proved it last night at the Verizon Theatre.
Turner, guitarist Jamie Cook and drummer Matt Helders and Nick O'Malley walked out and headed straight into a few offerings from their latest effort, 2013's acclaimed AM: "Do I Wanna Know?," "Snap Out of It," and "Arabella." It wasn't until "Arabella" that Turner fully displayed the band's newest flair, an abundance of style over substance. Turner put down his electric guitar for a moment and pantomimed across the stage, oozing a supreme confidence, utter cool and sensuality. He's equal parts all of the forefathers he draws from: Jagger, Presley, Kanye West.
There's nothing wrong with style over substance, so long as you do it right. The Arctic Monkeys do it extremely well both on AM and while performing songs from the record. The aforementioned songs don't only sound cool as hell, but they looked cool as hell on an illuminated stage. They could even make anybody in the world feel cool as hell too. Even the nerd in a John Hughes movie.
After "Arabella" came "Brainstorm," a single from the band's second release, Favourite Worst Nightmare, which began an onslaught of a few of the band's most cacophonous, heavy and frenzied songs like "Don't Sit Down Because I Moved Your Chair" and "Dancing Shoes." It's commendable that the band has such a wide range of songs they can point to and play for any emotion or style. Later, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" turned up the heat and showed that the guys haven't forgotten where they came from.
"Florescent Adolescent," meanwhile, served as a reminder that Alex Turner is a truly great writer and lyricist, lest you forgot when he decided to pen rockabilly songs high on melody and hip-hop spirit. "No. 1 Party Anthem" and "505," which closed out the pre-encore set, showed that the band can pump out a ballad with ease.
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The encore was a bookend. Three tracks from AM,"One For The Road," "I Wanna Be Yours," and R U Mine?," ended the evening. One particular critique that's shown up in the band's festival sets is that they only play like three of the old songs. I counted 11 oldies out of 20 tracks total. During a full Arctic Monkeys set you get a bunch of formerly ratty kids from Sheffield, England full of wit and thunder who have fully realized their full potential as a truly great band.
They've had a few different styles over the years to coincide with each album: Idiot savant garage rock (Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not), polished idiot savant garage rock (Favourite Worst Nightmare), psychedelic desert rock (Humbug), fecund romantic pop (Suck It and See), and melody driven rock seasoned with hip-hop and rockabilly (AM). Backstreet Boys or not, we all deserve to see a band with a robust, diverse, smart catalog play huge to semi-huge venues like Verizon Theatre.
There should be a space for a large production with the best sound available, screaming fans, even the teenage girl ones that so-called erudite music fans love to hate, with a band that's actually great. Not just young adult novel rock.
The Arctic Monkeys are still a band that's more popular overseas than they are here, there's no question of that. But somehow, it the past year or so, they've grown in stature in the States. Which is great. Last time they were in Dallas, they did the House of Blues. There are plenty of bands that are better at performing, playing their instruments,and maybe just a few folks better at writing lyrics than Turner. However, there ain't much out there that's taken the full package thing and run with it quite like the Arctic Monkeys, nor is there anybody with a catalog of hit after hit after hit that doesn't play casinos to old people. Thank God for the Arctic Monkeys.