Arctic Monkeys have come a long way since I saw them at the Hollywood Palladium in September 2007. With five studio albums under their belt (three multiplatinum) and a spot in the opening ceremonies at the 2012 Olympics, the band has become a force to be reckoned with.
That point was certainly driven home Tuesday night as I approached the Wiltern Theater on for the final, sold-out performance of their three-night stand. Although it was only 6:30 p.m. (doors opened at 7:30), the line of concertgoers was already wrapped around the block, mostly twenty-somethings making sure to secure their best spot on the dance floor. The air was definitely electric—and people on the street were coming up to me asking to buy tickets rather than selling them.
The Black Tibetans and Mini Mansions opened the night, the former offering up some good old rock and roll, and the latter providing a dose of electronica and psych, which was a bit draggy. I would’ve switched them around to keep the energy high. Nevertheless, when the Monkeys took the stage at 9:30, they were greeted by thunderous applause—and I got the uneasy sensation that the balcony I was standing on was about to collapse under the weight of hundreds of screaming, jumping fans.
Thankfully, the only destination in store for me was some serious rocking, and the band was prepared to deliver it, launching into a fast-paced setlist that veered from the early punky stuff like “Teddy Picker” to the rhapsodic “Reckless Serenade,” providing a showcase for their musical adventurousness.
You can’t shoehorn the Monkeys into a particular category, and that’s good. They can be punks, straight-up rockers, balladeers and everything in between. It’s so important to be able to hear their sharp and playful lyrics to get the full effect, and the sound at the Wiltern was excellent Tuesday night. Every syllable was perfectly intelligible—and loud.
When I saw the band at the Palladium six years ago, they were a bunch of kids from Sheffield just out of their teens and still marveling at their success. They’ve grown to be consummate entertainers and solid live performers. Frontman Alex Turner, he of the honeyed voice, has also become quite the stage presence, easily bantering with the audience between songs—”television presenter” style, as they’d say back home.
I was pleased to hear a number of songs from 2011′s Suck It and See, my favorite Monkeys album, with its outwardly swoony but inwardly dark ballads. But when they kicked into old faves like “Brianstorm” and the audience went Beatles-level crazy, it was also a lot of fun, despite the groaning balcony and the hysterically dancing girl next to me who kept whipping my face with her hair. But that’s rock and roll, innit?
Photo by the author