I am still trying to figure out what in the hell happened last night. Although I am pretty certain that I was still in NYC at the Bowery Ballroom, it sure didn’t feel like it. The typical New York crowd might nod their heads to the beat, and a few drunken hipsters might get their dance on, but for the most part our crowds are pretty damn boring. When the headliners took the stage last night, which just happened to be the UK buzz band the Arctic Monkeys, the crowd went... well... apeshit. Yeah, monkeys... apeshit... get it?
The Arctic Monkeys just completed two sold-out nights in NYC, which is mighty impressive for a band with no proper album out yet. These young lads have become the talk of the music biz, blogs, radio dudes, anglophiles, and hipsters, with a massive amount of hype that rivals just about any band in recent memory. Their debut single, “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”, was released earlier this month on Domino. So how does a band cause this much excitement with very little recorded material? You have to be one fantastic live band, which the Arctic Monkeys proved without a doubt that they are.
Besides the single, my only familiarity with the band is from the various demo MP3s that have been circulating around the web. These tunes came to life on stage, as they zipped through their punky Britpop flavored dance-rock with ease. This five-piece from Sheffield, led by frontman Alex Turner, are naturals on stage. Within the opening seconds of their set, a large portion of the sold-out crowd began spazzing out with some hybrid form of moshing-pogoing-dancing. It was then that I realized a good chunk of the crowd was from England. The couple in front of me was from the band’s hometown, while some burly rugby players next to me were from London. Did the band charter a plane from the UK for their die-hard fans? It sure seemed so.
The excitement from the Brits started rubbing off on the rest of the New York crowd, as the mass of dancing grew larger and larger. When the Arctic Monkeys rocketed into their single, I started to understand the hype behind this band. Their catchy Libtertines-flavored rock meets early Oasis pop melodies are irresistible. During “When The Sun Goes Down”, the group’s slight similarity to the Clash appeared in the jagged guitar work of Turner and bandmate Jamie Cook.
One of my favorites of the night was “Fake Tales Of San Francisco”, with Andy Nicholson’s fat bass lines laying down the backbone this fantastic pop song. The crowd chanted along “I don’t wanna to hear you... so kick me out... kick me out” to the amusement of the band. The mass hysteria surrounding the Arctic Monkeys still seems to catch the band off guard, as the audience somehow already knew a large portion of the lyrics to most of their songs. The sweaty crowd demanded “Mandy Bum” from the start, which they finally got towards the end of the hour-long set. “Dancing Shoes”, “Bigger Boys And Stolen Sweethearts” and “A Certain Romance” were other highlights from the night, which just about sent my fellow concertgoers into a frenzy. Guitars were thrown, amps were knocked over, and the set ended with no encore.
So my verdict about whether or not the Arctic Monkeys lived up to their ridiculous hype is a definite yes. These dudes already have a strong batch of infectious rock tunes to make up one mighty solid album. As young as they are, this will be a band to watch over the next several years. While some claim that they could be the next Oasis, we’ll just have to wait and see. Turner doesn’t have enough of an attitude problem yet to achieve Gallagher status, and I am not sure the world needs that anyways.