Photos by G.
If you read any music website these days, they can’t stop stroking it over the band Arctic Monkeys. During the release of last year’s “AM” album, their fifth record, the band blew up and are now playing arenas. Despite their growing popularity, prior to seeing them live, I’d only heard two of their songs. Because I am in a position to meet the people that create the art, I often choose to meet the artist before I take a look at their work because from experience, countless artists of all genres that have severely rocked my world have been super cool and others whose art I could take or leave have turned out to be pricks. There is too much choice in the world for me to waste my time with people that have little or no respect for the very people that have contributed to their success. Despite having TWO bad experiences meeting this band, I fully admit that the two songs I know from this band I quite enjoy, so I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and see them live.
This has happened to me many times before where I am literally sitting in an arena filled with 18,000 people and I have NO IDEA of any of the music I am about to hear. This method is not for everyone, but I highly recommend it. You can truly go in with an open mind and let these people do their jobs as rock stars and turn you into a fan before the night is over. Arctic Monkeys played their largest ever US show on February 8, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Here are 10 observations from my experience at the show.
1. The concert was not much of a ‘show.’ Playing Madison Square Garden is a privilege and not a right, so one would have thought this show would have been a spectacle as most concerts at the Garden are, especially since the band has spent 5 albums working up to this moment. Instead, the Arctic Monkeys had a gigantic but thin “A M” sign behind the band that lit up predictably during most songs. It was definitely a medium sized show placed in a large venue.
2. Arctic Monkeys do very little to get the crowd engaged. There was little banter between lead singer Alex Turner and the crowd. Turner played guitar for most songs and as a result, he stood in one place behind the microphone stand for the majority of the show. Crowd sing-a-longs were not happening either, which brings me to point number 3…
3. Arctic Monkeys songs are mostly forgettable. They do have some catchy moments, but would I rather listen to or see a band like Kasabian, Fratellis or Scissor Sisters whose music will not leave your head once it burrows itself inside? Yeah, any day! I mention these three bands because to me, Arctic Monkeys are an amalgamation of these 3 bands. I made myself a playlist of all the songs they performed in concert so I can focus on the studio versions and like I felt at the show, the music is pleasant and not offensive, but that’s about all I can say for it. I don’t see myself listening to their music on constant repeat.
4. Their music is very formulaic overall. Not very exciting verses and large choruses. So original. NOT!
5. They focused too much on their new album. They played all but 2 tracks off their newest record so fans that have been with Arctic Monkeys since the beginning have effectively been forgotten at their largest show to date in America. What a way to say thanks to your fans. Based on my not good experiences of meeting them, I am not surprised one bit.
6. The crowd was limp. As I said earlier, the band did very little to get the crowd engaged but for this bullet point, I’d like to focus on the lack of the crowd getting excited during songs. Sure there was generous applause in between songs, but it seemed that once a song started, people went back to texting and taking annoying cell phone pictures of either the band or the people they came with instead of getting involved with the show. I spent a lot of time looking around at the crowd reaction during the songs and for the lack of excitement I saw, I think people would have been better off playing the records at home and saving the expense and hassle of going to an arena. This is actually an observation that can be noted at most concerts as technology has really hindered people’s ability to live in the moment, but that’s a grievance for another day.
7. Their music, though popular, had little crossover appeal with people over 30. The crowd was extremely young and I felt like a dinosaur. For a rock band, I thought the crowd would be a bit more diverse, but I was wrong.
8. Lead singer Alex Turner is cute. Not the hottest guy I’ve ever seen, but he definitely has a 1950s greaser vibe going on and when I found myself getting bored, I was happy that I had some eye candy.
9. They covered The Beatles as safely as possible. It was the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles being on the Ed Sullivan Show on the weekend of the Arctic Monkeys concert so they played a little tribute to the Fab Four. They chose “All My Loving.” It was a “by the numbers” cover. No risk involved. Of course, every music site is juicing all over it like they took a risk and played “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” or “Helter Skelter” which would have been much more suited to their style. But with the new trend in playing covers, I am grateful they didn’t do an ironic cover where they played an acoustic version of a song that has no business being disrespected that way.
10. Final thoughts. I am more familiar with Arctic Monkeys than I was before I walked into the show. I can’t say I hated the show, because I did not. I also can’t say that I will become a die hard after seeing them live. They have a handful of songs that I can see myself revisiting and they have many more that were completely forgettable to me. I make it my mission to have fun wherever I go, in spite of my surroundings, and yes, I had fun. But that says more about me than it says about Arctic Monkeys. I can’t believe that in the two times I’ve seen this band in “autograph situations” they chose to ignore fans because I see no reason to patronize a mediocre band who have let a tiny bit of fame go to their heads. There are plenty of other bands who appreciate the position they are in and who are better performers.
The setlist was:
Do I Wanna Know? / Brainstorm / Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair / Snap Out of It / Crying Lightning / Old Yellow Bricks / Fireside/ Knee Socks / Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? / Arabella / Dancing Shoes / Pretty Visitors / I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor / Cornerstone / I Wanna Be Yours / Fluorescent Adolescent / 505 (with Miles Kane)
All My Loving (The Beatles cover) (with Miles Kane) / One For The Road / R U Mine?