Arctic Monkeys are certified superstars in their home country. While the Sheffield UK band isn’t quite that big here, they’re no slouches, as their massive radio hit “Do I Wanna Know?” and their set at this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival attest. If we were clairvoyant, we’d say American superstardom is just around the corner for the Monkeys. So we were excited to host them for the first time, especially in light of their acclaimed sixth album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino.
Augmented by four auxiliary musicians, the quartet took the stage and went into “Four Out of Five,” from Casino. The harmony-heavy glam pop tune led into the familiar, riff-rocking pound of “Do I Wanna Know?,” a clear audience favorite. But the same could be said for “Crying Lightning,” a dramatic Humbug cut that earned cheers as soon as the first notes rang out. Leader Alex Turner sat down at the piano for “505,” an intricate song from the band’s debut Favorite Worst Nightmare, which was immediately followed by a crunchy instrumental jam. That segued directly into the title track of Casino, which brought the sound back to “505.” Next up was “One Point Perspective,” a tune that blended elements of Paul McCartney, David Bowie and orchestral pop with the Monkeys’ own je ne sais quoi for a song that couldn’t be by anyone else. Turner moved to the organ for “American Sports,” driven by the leader’s rolling keyboard riff.
Turner abandoned instruments entirely for “Cornerstone,” reveling in the persona of a rock & roll crooner for the loquacious ballad. Acoustic guitar in hand, he led the band through the midtempo pop of “No. 1 Party Anthem,” a nod to the world-weary side of the British glam rock years. The Monkeys kept that vibe going for “Knee Socks,” a subtly funky rocker with just a hint of menace. Once again indulging his 70s Bowie jones, Turner took the mic and belted “The Ultracheese” as if it was the sequel to “Life On Mars.” Back at the piano, Turner took the Monkeys to the cabaret, giving the ballad its own Arctic twist. The band ended the set with the hard-rocking “R U Mine?,” a sort of aggressive sequel to “Do You Wanna Know?” It was the perfect blast to end the show, as the audience’s loud approval showed. It was a nicely rocking set, which we can’t wait for you to see when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.