Review: Arctic Monkeys – Terminal 5, NYC

By Live4ever - Posted on 16 Dec 2009 at 12:38pm

Arctic Monkeys , T5 (photo:CLme)

Arctic Monkeys , T5 (photo:CLme)

Arctic Monkeys–Terminal 5 (12/11/2009)

The two constants in the stylistic metamorphosis of the Arctic Monkeys that fans have witnessed over the course of the band’s first three albums have been the sophisticated lyrical craftsmanship of frontman Alex Turner and the virtuoso musicianship of drummer Matt Helders, both of which belie the age of the band. It’s been said before by others, but it’s worth repeating, these guys are just too damned young to be this good. Listening to the band’s recorded output, you can almost forget how young they are, but seeing them live, and seeing how young they look in person, only serves to bring into sharper focus how remarkable it is that they’ve already produced a series of records which will probably be considered classics of their era. I can’t say enough about the skills Helders displays behind his stripped down drum kit. He is simply a force of nature, both grounding the music of the band in a tight groove and propelling it with his explosiveness. And many others have already opined on the deftness of Turner’s lyrical phrasing and the tuneful infectiousness of his melodies.

Friday night was the second of a two-night stay at New York City’s Terminal 5, a venue that has earned a reputation, somewhat unfairly, as being plagued with a lackluster sound system. Sure, it’s a big box, but in all fairness, it’s not so bad. I’ve seen shows in worse places. Anyone remember the Academy? For a band like the Arctic Monkeys the lack of pristine sound could potentially be problematic. With the lyrics playing such an important role in the band’s music, the vocals should be audible, clear and distinct. Nevertheless, everyone in the audience knew all the words to most of the songs (with the exception of a cover of Nick Caves’s “Red Right Hand” and the b-side “Sketchead”) and was singing along just as aloud as the band that it really didn’t make all that much of a difference.

In a setlist dominated by tracks from their new album (no “Mardy Bum” — sorry, kids!), the latest evolution of the Arctic Monkey’s sound was on prominent display. Leaving aside for the most part the happy go lucky, amphetamine laced, bulldozing that was characteristic of their earlier work, they showed off a darker and more psychedelic side, hints of which were heard on 2007’s Favorite Worst Nightmare but which is par for the course on their latest album, Humbug. Show opener, “The Jeweller’s Hand”, the final track on Humbug, set the mood for the rest of the show, while the singles “Crying Lightning” and “Cornerstore” demonstrated the best that the “new” Arctic Monkeys sound has to offer.

Of course, the crowd’s best reception was reserved for “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “The View from the Afternoon”, the two tracks from their debut album which are largely responsible for putting the band on everyone’s radar. These two songs, played back to back, got the standing room only crowd bopping and singing along. Speaking of the crowd, you have to hand it to a band whose appeal bridges the generations. While the majority of the audience consisted of the usual suspects you find at an indie rock show in New York these days, a semi-hipsterish group of 20- and 30-somethings, there were more than a few moms and dads with tweenagers in tow present as well.

The most memorable moment of the set was, of course, the aforementioned Matt Helders’s coming out from behind the drum kit during the middle of “Fluorescent Adolescent” and grabbing the microphone to sing lead on a cover of WHAM!’s “Last Christmas.” Not only is this guy a monster on the drums, but he stole the show with this performance.

The one complaint I have is that the show felt like it was just too short. Hitting the stage at approximately 9:20, they band was done with the encore at 10:45. Even taking the venue’s curfew into account, there was certainly time for the band to play an additional 3 or 4 songs, including some of the hits from their earlier catalog that the fans were clamoring for. Heck, they could have played all three of their albums in their entirety and kept the performance under two hours.

Nick Fokas

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1 comment

  1. lauren

    i agree w ith you i couldve done with a bit longer.
    great review.