May 28, 2011
Touring for an album that hasn't been released yet is typically quite a challenge for a band. They run the risk of the crowd standing there oblivious, or, even worse, bored, while they are playing songs that their fans don't yet recognize and haven't taken to heart. But in this day and age, where most albums leak far before their actual release date, those fears are frequently disregarded. In the case of Arctic Monkeys' packed performance at First Avenue Saturday night, none of that mattered one bit, as the show sold out immediately and the rabid crowd went crazy for songs both new and old during the Sheffield quartet's stormy, 75-minute set. [jump]
The hotly tipped London quartet the Vaccines made their Minneapolis debut as the opening band for the evening, and despite the fact that the band seemed a bit tired due to the relatively early start time of their set, they wound up delivering a tight, spirited performance that easily got the crowd's attention and set the stage quite well for the headliners. Frontman Justin Young (who formerly performed as the folk troubadour Jay Jay Pistolet) eventually asked the fans to pay no attention to how early it was, stating: "It's still daylight outside--let's try to forget that." And with songs as catchy as theirs, it was easy to do (despite the fact that their debut full-length also hasn't been released yet).
Their all-too-brief, 30-minute set went by in a flash, as the band rolled quickly from one catchy garage-pop number to the next. But their first couple songs (including the current hit single "Post Break-Up Sex") came off a little lethargic, and it wasn't until "Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)" that the band really hit their stride. From there they built on that momentum, tearing through great versions of "A Lack Of Understanding," "Wetsuit," and "If You Wanna,'" which was a clear highlight of the set. It came as a bit of a surprise when Young announced that "Nørgaard" would be their last song of the night, but remarkably that was indeed their tenth song of the set. It was a fiery close to a fun set that portends nothing but good things for this highly likable band. Here's to hoping that they will be back soon, headlining a smaller room filled with fans who, by then, will be a lot more familiar with their material.
In the five years since Arctic Monkeys released their stellar debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, the band has been consistently churning out new records while trying to broaden both their sound and their style. But no matter what direction the Arctic Monkeys seem to take their music, their fervent fanbase follows them every step of the way, and that passionate, energetic support from their fans was on full display at First Ave on Saturday night. From the moment Alex Turner and the gang stepped on stage, the crowd was a roiling, teeming mass of humanity, no matter if the band was playing a song from their debut or a new track from their forthcoming full length Suck It And See. It was absolute bedlam on the Mainroom floor, and that wild sense of abandon displayed by their fans only served to inspire the band to play louder and faster.
Early set highlights included riotous renditions of "Brianstorm," "This House Is A Circus," and "Still Take You Home," which all set the place off. The QOTSA-sounding new single "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," fit in pretty seamlessly with the older material, and garnered just as intense a reaction from their fans. Other than a few cursory words of thanks, Turner didn't really say too much to the crowd, as the band seemed focused on the well-paced set. After one of the only lulls in the performance (during the tepid love song "Cornerstone"), Turner realized that the crowd was mainly interested in their rock numbers, claiming: "We thought we'd slow it down just a bit, but I think you want something more like this," before the band charged into a blistering version of "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor" that caused the crowd to erupt. It was a sight to behold, and easily one of the night's high points.
Turner has grown into more of a showman these days (even at the still youthful age of 25), bounding around the stage while stepping onto the drum riser and amps, playfully drawing out the ends of some songs, and teasing the crowd while knowing that he has the whole club completely under his charms. That sense of command also informs the band's sound, which has grown more confident and crisp since their early days. Arctic Monkey's music has always had a churning urgency to it, but now that intensity is coupled with a proficiency and showmanship that only adds to the irresistible allure of the tempestuous songs.
We were lucky enough to witness the live debut of "All My Own Stunts," from the new album, which led in nicely to the volatile triumvirate of songs that closed out the main set: "If You Were There, Beware," "Do Me A Favour," and a killer rendition of "When The Sun Goes Down" that set everyone off. After a bit of an extended encore break (probably so everyone could catch their breath), the band sauntered back on stage for the last of the five new songs they would play on this night, the downtempo blues of "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala." But the energy level immediately picked up during an incendiary version of "The View From The Afternoon." And, after thanking us once again and promising to come back soon, Turner and the boys left us with the boisterous singalong of "Fluorescent Adolescent," which closed the set strongly. First Avenue got a glimpse of both the old and the new guard of the UK music scene on Saturday night, and both bands easily proved why they captured everyone's attention in the first place.
Critic's Bias: I haven't missed a local live show by the Arctic Monkeys yet--even though their recent records haven't really held my interest, they remain a stellar live act.
The Crowd: It seemed that the young kids dominated the turbulent main floor, while the older folks (myself included) stayed on the periphery.
Overheard In The Crowd: "How many beers can you carry?" "How many beers do you got?"
Random Notebook Dump: It's a rare UK band that sells out First Avenue each and every time they've played Minneapolis; typically, a young band starts in a small room and graduates to much larger venues. Cheers to Arctic Monkeys for continuing to play First Ave (and dedicating a song to their backstage staff); it suits their sound much more than a larger club or theater would.
For more photos: See our slideshow by Nick Wosika.
The Vaccines Setlist:
Blow It Up
Post Break-Up Sex
Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
A Lack Of Understanding
Under Your Thumb
All In White
If You Wanna'
Arctic Monkeys Setlist:
This House Is A Circus
Still Take You Home
Don't Sit Down 'Cause I Moved Your Chair
Brick By Brick
I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor
All My Own Stunts
If You Were There, Beware
Do Me A Favour
When The Sun Goes Down
The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala (Encore)
The View From The Afternoon (Encore)
Fluorescent Adolescent (Encore)