Arctic Monkeys at First Avenue, 2/14/14
|Photo By Erik Hess|
With Saint Motel
First Avenue, Minneapolis
February 14, 2014
It would seem that Arctic Monkeys have put as much creative distance as they can between themselves and the firebrand sound of their early days. The Sheffield, England quartet returned to a very sold-out First Avenue for the fourth time on Friday night. Over the years, they have steadily changed the sonic direction of their material, as well as their road-tested stage show.
During an uneven 90-minute set, it became quite apparent that the irrepressible pub anthems from their youth are still the best jams that the band has. Those numbers were mostly replaced by moody, simmering songs forming the crux of their recent output during the group's polished but somewhat somnambulistic set.
As atmospheric music and a mercurial cloud of smoke filled the room, Arctic Monkeys took the stage to a well-lubricated Friday night ovation. The demand for this show was sky high since the moment the gig was announced, and tickets sold out in a flash. So the moment that the sinister first notes of "Do I Wanna Know?" rang out, the club went off.
AM's affable frontman Alex Turner -- who had his hair greased back like a rockabilly Elvis and donned a fitted leather jacket -- worked a quick introduction of the band between verses of "Brianstorm," as he stood assuredly on the side of the stage, urging the audience on. The band has had a good working relationship with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, and his influence colors much of the group's new direction, including "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," which took on a welcome guitar-fueled edge. Turner even mockingly did the Macarena dance to correspond to his lyrics, and shouted, "I moved your chair, Minneapolis!" to goad the crowd to get into it.
|Photos By Erik Hess|
"All right! Thank you!" Turner exclaimed as everyone caught their collective breath. "It's great to be here tonight. It's Friday night and the fucking Arctic Monkeys are in Minneapolis! Do you feel good? Yeah, so do I." And with that, the band eased into the bouncy, soul-infused tempo of "Snap Out Of It," the first of many moments where the momentum built up on previous songs lagged considerably. "This one is for all the lovers on Valentine's Day," Turner declared, before the band ushered in the slinky tones of "Pretty Visitors," which failed to find much of a spark, despite drummer Matt Helders pounding rhythms, something even Turner excitedly took note of mid-song. "Matt Helders on the drums, Minneapolis. Holy shit!"
Turner had a flamboyant carnival barker-like level of showmanship throughout the performance, consistently working Minneapolis into his between song banter to elicit lusty cheers from the crowd while proving to us all that he, in fact, knew exactly where he was. "Know what I mean, Minneapolis?" Turner asked us, though most were unsure of exactly what he was on about. "Absolutely! How are all the girls tonight in Minneapolis? This one's specifically for the ladies." The band tore into "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor," which got everyone moving as best they could in the tight confines of the packed club.
Alex then lost his leather jacket as well as his guitar's whammy-bar as he joked lasciviously, "I rocked me whammy off on that last one." Guitarist Jamie Cook then switched to acoustic guitar for the Latin-tinged "Fireside," as the stage appropriately was bathed in smoke and red lighting. But again, the rapid tempo of the set took a noticeable dip, and took a while to work its way out of the lull. "Knee Socks" was tepid and directionless, but did elicit a cheer following Turner's line, "Well, you cured my January blues," as everyone identified with the desire to put the winter months behind them.