I have had a nearly unhealthy obsession with Arctic Monkeys since English music magazine NME began hailing them as “the next Beatles” when I was 16. I saw their first ever Chicago show at the Metro later that year, when they played a blistering 35 minute set that showcased their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Nearly four years later, on August 7th, Arctic Monkeys returned to the intimate Metro, as part of local radio station XRT’s “Lollapalooza After Party.” They brimmed with confidence as they took the stage at a quarter past midnight, clearly in good moods thanks to the several bottles of Heineken they brought with them. “We’ve missed you; you’ve grown,” stated a grinning Alex Turner as the band launched into “Pretty Visitors,” a song from their upcoming album Humbug. The song, much like the rest of the new material they played, has a distinct psychedelic feel to it, perhaps explaining their new long hair and rock star clothing.
The band clearly knows exactly what to do in all situations, as shown by their abilities to stop and start songs for dramatic effect, as well as being able to squeeze several tempo changes into one song, like they did on Favourite Worst Nightmare track “Fluorescent Adolescent.” That song was transformed from an exciting pop tune into a Motown-esque crooner, then back again. They even had a big surprise up their sleeves, as they played a heavy cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand.”
Turner was in fine form throughout the whole hour and a half set, bantering with the crowd the whole time, asking the late night crowd if they thought they could stay awake all night. He even had the Chicago accent down at one point, saying “Chi-CAAAH-go.” Later, a fan jokingly shouted “Slayer!” after which Turner and the rest of the band burst into laughter. “Did someone just say Slayer? Sorry, not happening.” On the musical side, his voice has improved to a relaxed, confident quality, and the playing of the rest of the band, particularly drummer Matt Helders, was impeccable; he’s gone from simply talented to one of the best drummers in rock.
The set was comprised heavily of tracks from Favourite Worst Nightmare and Humbug, but the biggest crowd reaction came from 2005 UK Number One hit “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor,” during which the entire crowd drifted and flowed. “…Dancefloor” was one of only three songs they played from their first LP, showing they are moving away from rambunctious indie punk and into more mature territory, a move I could not agree with more. They’re well traveled now and their music is beginning to show it.
After watching them grow and change through two albums and three concerts attended, I can assure you Arctic Monkeys have arrived. Now that they’re here, they won’t be checking out any time soon. They’re rock stars.