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Concert Review | Arctic Monkeys perform raw, straightforward show

Published: Friday, February 14, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 08:02

 For some, concerts are a form of performance art — a chance for an artist or band to reveal a wild side or grandiose conceptual act. From the most extreme cases — Kanye West’s postponing of the Yeezus tour because a few of his outrageous props had been damaged — to even the most subtle interactions — like Taylor Swift’s occasional walk through the crowd — it seems that artists now find concerts to be a more intimate chance to put themselves out there. But English indie rock band Arctic Monkeys do not belong to this school of thought. Ironically, that is a breath of fresh air.

The group’s packed show at Boston University’s Agganis Arena on Feb. 6 was a treat. Although their set list unsurprisingly encompassed most of the newly released, “AM” (2013), the band also incorporated older, more guitar-heavy tunes like “Brainstorm” (2007) and “Dancing Shoes” (2006). It brought you back to what classic rock shows used to be like for an earlier generation.

Yet, it’s hard to speak to the quality of the show without mentioning the surprisingly delightful opening groups. The Orwells — a peculiar bunch from outside Chicago, with a stumbling front man who chose to moan away much of his husky voice — provided an interesting start. Deerhunter, an ambient punk rock group that has recently been gaining popularity, followed as the second opener. 

Finally, after much baited breath, frontman Alex Turner, in tight pants and slicked back hair, took the microphone and started belting the opening tune of their new album, “Do I Wanna Know?” — skipping any sort of introduction. It wasn’t until the middle of the third song, “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair” from “Suck It and See,” (2011) that Turner’s creamy English voice slurred the word, “Boston.”

Notwithstanding Turner’s apparent apathy about the crowd’s experience, the audiences’ excitement and passion charged the atmosphere. Who could complain when the Arctic Monkeys played songs in quick succession, and each jam was somehow just as crisp and fresh as the last? While the guitars strummed out perfect — albeit distorted — melodies, Turner hit every falsetto; his voice sounding just as it does on studio record. Arctic Monkeys’ tunes are practically constructed for live performances. Each song contained the perfect balance of solid, rocking instrumentals and catchy lyrics that the crowd couldn’t wait to belt out.

Despite all their rock glamour, the group still knows how to take things slow. After a sea of loud, kicking choices the band slowed it down with “I Wanna Be Yours” (2013). Though there was a decrease in the crowd’s vocal involvement, a sea of iPhone flashlights (and, yes, a few actual lighters) went up across the stadium creating an awe-inspiring, twinkling effect that gave an even more heightened sense of magic and spectacle. The band, content with their slow moment, picked the stadium back up with “Fluorescent Adolescent” (2007). However overplayed it may be, it never gets old. And, as if chosen by the audience, the Arctic Monkeys ended with “505” (2007) — their quintessential crowd-pleaser.

However, a surprise remained: the encore. The band played “Cornerstone” (2009) which — with its unhurried tempo — continued the illumination show with a patterned rainbow light that was reminiscent of psychedelic flowers. Culminating with two last tunes from “AM” — “One for the Road” and “R U Mine?” — Arctic Monkeys left the crowd jubilant.

Turner’s days may end best when “the sunset gets itself” — as he aptly puts it on the track “Arabella” off of “AM” — but no day can end better than with an Arctic Monkeys show.

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