Arctic Monkeys: Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY 5/10/07

What was lost amongst the uber-hype surrounding Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not was the fact that the songs the Arctic Monkeys were playing were rock solid.  Critics may have scoffed at all the “second coming” propaganda, but it is hard to dismiss the infectious pub-punk-groovy-ska-power-pop that comes through the speakers when that album rolls, and all of those elements were on stage tonight.  Now touring behind their second offering Favourite Worst Nightmare, the Monkey’s, hailing from a Sheffield England suburb, made their way onto the Hammerstein stage for their cask tight hour and fifteen minute set which begun with pre-recorded violin strings before being replaced by scratching guitars and Yorkshire accents.   

The game plan goes like this: Alex Turner strums out a riff and relays disaffected teen drinking tales, then proceeds to ram both elements into your ear until they are cemented in your brain while drummer Matt Helders delicately pummels the shit out of your knees and lower back causing you to sway and bend with the tune, a winning combo that came to the forefront during this show.  They were supported by bassist Nick O’Malley and rhythm guitarist Jamie Cook, who seemed to be struggling with technical issues all night.

Jumping out was the power and punk rock fury of some of the older tunes like “Still Take You Home” and “The View from the Afternoon” compared to the dance vibe mixing with arena rock of newer tunes such as “Brianstorm”, “D is for Dangerous” and “Fluorescent Adolescent”.  Perhaps it is simply the band’s familiarity with playing the older material live, but the punch and motor (especially in Helders brutal drumming) really create a raucous feel.   The crazy-ass sing-a-longs also add to the environment, I never thought I would hear “She dun’t do major credit cards/I doubt she does receipts” about a prostitute, screamed in unison by a sold-out house consisting of teenagers and tons of English transplants, but what a moment.  The crowd chanting on “When the Sun Goes Down” “Riot Van” and the volcanic “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” electrified both crowd and band alike the latter being the highlight of the night with a crashing return to the chorus completely sung by the amped audience.

The influence of the Monkeys is vast and at times their 4 parts can sound like a mix tape, but after tonight’s show I think their most linkable band may be the recently reunited Police.   Combining the same, punk/ska/pop combo that made the Police international superstars, the Arctic Monkeys have updated, twisted and rearranged those influences to make them their own, as opposed to say Grand National who just rip them off.  Alex Turner, in particular, is a great songwriter, capturing and creating in the same stanzas. His maturation should be fascinating as an artist while his lead guitar ain’t too shabby either.  There was no encore on this night and honestly none was needed after “A Certain Romance”, this was a no-frills rock and roll show and the Monkeys will hopefully keep this up for a long time…whether the hype continues or not.          

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