Concert Review: Arctic Monkeys at Iron City

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A few exceptions aside, most of my favorite bands are European. I listen to trainloads of American bands for sure, but four of my top five most listened to artists on last.fm need a passport to visit these United States (1 Australian, 2 English, 1 Icelandic.) With that in mind, getting to see one of these bands live is truly an event of mass importance for me as they don’t come around as often as their American counterparts, and when they do, they tend to not play the Deep South. Imagine my great surprise and delight when Iceland’s Sigur Rós and England’s Arctic Monkeys scheduled concerts in Birmingham a mere five days apart. It was Christmas in October as far as my tastes are concerned. (Check out my Sigur Rós review here.)

Still basking in Sigur Rós’ ethereal afterglow, I had to quickly switch into big guitar/rock mode for the Brighton quartet’s appearance in the Magic City. Though the attendance at the two shows was in the ballpark of each other, this one felt like more of a success given the infinitely smaller venue it was in and the fervor of the crowd. A few chords into “Do I Wanna Know?,” the lead single off the band’s fifth album, AM, and it was clear the crowd was an adoring one. It kind of reminded me of old videos of people freaking out and shrieking in The Beatles’ presence (and if you think I’m exaggerating, check out this video I took during the encore performance of “R U Mine?”) It was like that during most of the concert.

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The band leaned heavily on material from their new album, with eight of the twenty songs they played coming from it. Many of those songs provided highlights of the evening including the aforementioned “R U Mine?” for the closing song of the encore, but “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?,” “One for the Road,” and “Arabella” (complete with “War Pigs” teaser thrown in as an homage to the song that provided its blueprint) are songs that are sure to figure in future sets of the band many albums down the road.

Arctic Monkeys are one of the few bands I can think of (even among my favorites) where a compelling case can be made for each album they’ve released being the band’s best. With that level of consistent quality, having a mere 12 songs drawn from their previous four albums there was sure to be disappointment over songs left off of the setlist. I could, with no hyperbole, come up with a list of 20 songs they didn’t play and the show would’ve been just as enjoyable. Their reservoir of tunes is truly that deep.

Highlights from previous albums included the relentlessly pounding “Brianstorm” and subtle aggression of “Do Me a Favour” off of 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare (the last tour I saw them on.) Having sadly missed the Humbug and Suck It and See tours, it was a joy for me to get to finally here songs like “Crying Lightning,” “All the Pretty Visitors,” “Cornerstone,” and “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” live. Seeing those songs live made me wish time travel were possible to see those records performed live. Super jealous of those of you that managed to catch them on those tours.

…and yes, they played “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” and it’s still awesome and they don’t sound tired of playing it, which is a blessing because it’s a damn fine song.

Their set clocked in just shy of 90 minutes, which seems a bit short given the $30 ticket price, but I don’t think many (if any) left disappointed. If the intense adoration of the sold out crowd is any indication, I think we can go ahead and bank on a return engagement by the band to “the other Birmingham.”

author note: I don’t normally wait five days to review shows, but some travel and other responsibilities prevented me from completing this until now. I hope you enjoy it regardless of its post date.

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