The Arctic Monkeys ignite the Bay Area on their first North American tour gig
By Jessica Fromm
Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Gavilan Press Newspaper based out of Gilroy, California
Kicking off the first gig on their 12 date sold-out North American tour, The Arctic Monkeys got anything but a cold reception at the San Francisco Great American Music Hall on March 13.
With the fastest selling debut album ever in the UK and fresh from an (evidently perturbed?) appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, the band, far from their hometown of Sheffield, England, delivered a loud, brash and appealingly grounded performance to a fervent sold- out Bay Area crowd.
The whole show seemed to incite one question: has the British invasion finally come?
With the sheer energy, enthusiasm, and exuberance expressed by the concert goers, it was clear that at least some of the Arctic Monkeys overseas hype has resonated over to US listeners.
Taking the stage with venue speakers blasting Dr. Dre, The Arctic Monkeys launched into “View From the Afternoon,” the first track off their first album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.”,
Clad in a blue hoodie that eventually gave way to a long sleeved undershirt and simple brown pants, lead singer Alex Turner truly seemed like he was a man made for the spotlight. Though slight in stature, on stage he proved to be sizable in presence.
At just 20-years-old, he’s already very much the front man, very much the unabashed rock star. He gave off a sense of spaced-out cool ambivalence, but surprisingly still managed not to come across as a total wanker (a talent in itself…)
As the band began playing the beginning guitar ruckus of their first hit single “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance floor,” the crowd went absolutely crazy.
Famous for having fans that know all the words and will dedicatedly sing right along to their lyrics at shows, audience members were singing, clapping, dancing, jumping up and down and pumping their fists in the air to the music. Kids with digital cameras were snapping pictures of the band right and left.
The Arctic Monkeys burned through their set, which included songs like their second hit single “When The Sun Goes Down”, the bittersweet “Mardy Bum,” “From Ritz to Rubble,” “Dancing Shoes,” and the apply named “Fake Tales of San Francisco.”
The band gave a fairly mobile performance, with Turner frequently weaving back and forth between guitarist Jamie Cook and Bassist Andy Nicholson during the set.
Turner made a point to engage and stir up the audience with intense eye contact and occasional quick banter, but managed to stay pretty aloof. Throughout the whole set he only appeared to smile once, when apparently joking around with drummer Matt Helders, who was decked out in aviator shades for the most part of the show.
At one point, after wiping off his sweaty brow and taking a sip off a bottled water between songs, he handed it to an eager audience member in the front row, who delightedly downed a gulp and handed it to her friend, who enthusiastically did the same.
Turner then dryly commented into the microphone that he had a cold…yep, he’s a cheeky little bastard. I’m pretty sure the girl didn’t mind her body sharing his man-germs though…in fact, if anything she appeared even more enthused.
The peak of the show was reached when The Arctic Monkeys performed the song “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure,” during which the moshing in the front of the crowd grew intense. The audience was worked up into such a frenzy that during the song “Dancing Shoes,” Turner even stopped singing a verse and let the audience do the job because the singing was so loud.
The only snag in the show happened when, during their performance of “Perhaps Vampires is a bit strong but...,” bassist Andy Nicholson’s instrument suddenly died halfway through the song. The band stopped playing immediately and was ensued by a few moments of confusion.
Then, Turner unexpectedly grabbed his guitar, popped up to the microphone and began playing a solo acoustic tune whole- heartedly while the rest of the band milled around behind him and various roadies hopped up on stage, scrambling to solve the technical difficulty.
By the time Turner finished his ditty all was fixed and after a few exasperated nods were exchanged between band members, they were off again, rocking the rest of the song from exactly the point from where they had stopped.
A new song was also introduced during their performance. The crowd actually calmed down and listened intently to the offering, which proved to be just as raucous as any of their familiar tunes.
The last song of the night was the appropriate “A Certain Romance,” which is also the closing song on their album.
When The Artic Monkeys finished they simply put down their instruments and walked off stage. No encores, no rock and roll pretension, and nobody left disappointed.
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