“Who the f*ck are Arctic Monkeys?!” a clearly inebriated dude yelled from behind me each time the band paused between songs. For any other band, that question might be an insult. But for the British rock band, it’s not. It’s actually a callback to their debut 2006 EP that introduced them with the appropriately titled 5-track project Who The F*ck Are Arctic Monkeys? Obnoxiousness aside, that dude’s shouts were indicative of the crowd that showed up to see Arctic Monkeys perform on night two of their three-night sold-out tour stop at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles. Many people there were day-one fans.
When you’re a band that has been releasing music as long as Arctic Monkeys have — 18 years to be exact — you’re sure to have cultivated a committed fan base. And when you’re a band with seven era-defining albums to your discography, going to a live concert is a stroll down band merch memory lane. The line to get in was packed with fans repping their favorite Arctic Monkeys era like a badge of honor. Though the majority were from 2013’s AM cycle and featured that recognizable oscilloscope logo, I clocked band tees from nearly every album. I myself was rocking one I picked up at their Suck It And See support tour in 2011 (is this where I out myself as someone who had more than one Arctic Monkeys poster plastered on my childhood bedroom walls?). No matter which era we showed up supporting, there was one thing we all had in common: Everyone wore black.
Despite their recently released album The Car, which follows the loungy feel of the band’s more conceptual Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, there was a consensus among the crowd, or at least in the women’s bathroom line, that people were most excited to hear Arctic Monkeys play their earlier hits. But when it comes to a band like Arctic Monkeys, what exactly can be considered their “earlier hits?” Is it strictly music from their pre-2010s albums, 2006’s debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, 2007’s follow-up Favourite Worst Nightmare, and 2009’s Humbug? Does the band’s behemoth 2013 album AM — the record that catapulted the band into international fame and gave them their first Billboard Hot 100 entry — now fall into that category? After all, it has now been 10 years since that album was released (can you believe it?). Semantics aside, while each era of Arctic Monekys was represented in their setlist, the band did deliver on the hope that they’d play their earlier hits.
For most bands releasing an album, tours are typically meant to be a way to promote their most recent LP. But Arctic Monkeys took a different approach. Instead, Arctic Monkey’s North American tour is about fan service, it celebrates their die-hard day-one listeners, as well as those who discovered them through their AM radio hits. Rather than playing mostly songs from The Car, Arctic Monkeys opted to only deliver three songs, two of which were singles — “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball” (which there was, of course), and “Body Paint” — after opening with the languid number “Sculptures Of Anything Goes.” Singer Alex Turner fully committed to his role, leaving behind his once signature leather jacket in favor of dressing like if your favorite uncle happened to be a well-dressed rock star: a fitted suit over a pin-striped shirt buttoned almost scandalously low accented by a gold chain, sepia-toned sunglasses, and hair floppy enough that brushing his hands through it elicited deafening screams from the crowd.
Though much of the setlist has remained the same throughout their North American tour, each night they swap out one or two songs from the bill. As such, there were some slight changes during night two at the Forum. They traded in “From The Ritz To Rubble” for “View From The Afternoon,” two songs that appeared on their debut LP. Instead of performing “Teddy Picker,” like they had the night before, the band launched into a rendition of “Cornerstone,” a song that has grown to become one of my personal favorites from their discography. Since it’s one of their more ballad-like tracks, the crowd put up their cell phone lights to transform the Forum into a twinkling starry sky. Of course, Arctic Monkeys appeased the AM crowd by playing several songs off the album. They shredded through the three biggest hits, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” and “Do I Wanna Know?” before closing out the night with “R U Mine?” They also performed “Arabella,” which Turner sweetly dedicated to drummer Matt Helders’ daughter.
Though the crowd was filled with people who knew most of the words to their songs, it was likely many concertgoers’ first time seeing the band perform since it has now been five years since they crossed the pond to tour. Those who have seen a stadium concert before may have been expecting a big lights show, a special guest performance, or perhaps even some sort of exciting choreography. Arctic Monkeys’ concert had none of that. Save for a glowing circular screen putting Turner’s knowing charm on full display and a massive disco ball that dropped for one single song, the concert didn’t have much in terms of theatrics. Turner hardly even addressed the crowd. Instead, Arctic Monkeys leaned into doing what they do best; they donned suave suits, fired up the crowd with raucous hits, and let their music speak for themselves.
The Car is out now via Domino. Find more information here.