Arctic Monkeys at the Ogden Theatre, 5/28/13
Trevor Anderson Arctic Monkeys on stage last night at the Ogden Theatre in Denver.
ARCTIC MONKEYS @ THE OGDEN THEATRE, 5/28/13
During the decade Arctic Monkeys have been together and the seven years of space since their debut album, the guys have exchanged their polos for panache. While their lyrics continue to question their lives and loves, the stage is reserved for charm. They ooze it. The four men who walked on stage at the Ogden Theatre last night were all tight black Tees and even tighter pants, legs like pipe cleaners, coifs like Danny Zuko's -- struts like Rizzo's. This is a heavier, broodier, post-Josh Homme Arctic Monkeys. It's also a considerably louder one.
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Ringleader, lyricist and emotional pillar Alex Turner paused only to run a hand over his carefully gelled 'do before squeezing out a grin and launching into new (and as of yet albumless, though they're working on that) track, "Do I Wanna Know?" Debuted in Ventura, California, earlier this month, the raucous rager backs up the cojones the Monkeys have shown off in recent singles, including the equally riff-reliant "R U Mine?"
In the new song, already a quick crowd favorite thanks to its searching chorus and powerful guitar, Turner asked the mysterious, done-him-wrong woman who's been haunting many of his most recent creations, "Have you got color in your cheeks?...How many secrets can you keep?" This woman might not be a real one -- certainly not one real one -- but her thematic shadow and femme-fatale vibe are welcome all over the band's forthcoming fifth release.
With the arrival of "Dancing Shoes," a club stomper from the group's debut that rarely makes the live rounds these days, Turner had already removed his suit jacket and dexterously opened the top three buttons of the black shirt underneath it. Throughout a set packed with many of the Monkeys' smoothest crooners and quickest pulse-racers, Turner guided the group with all the knowing charisma of a Las Vegas lounge singer.
During "Brianstorm"'s merciless drums, Turner took a swagger break for a quick fist pump in the air. During "Brick By Brick," he borrowed time for a sleek stage dive. As bassist Nick O'Malley pounded out the towering skeleton of "Don't Sit Down," Turner acted along with the song, pointing to his eyes, then the audience, before slowly wiggling his hips. (Cue mass cooing.)
But while the group gained bonus points in showmanship, it earned its highest approval rating for a creative setlist deftly navigated in front of a largely underage audience that would never -- not ever, not in this lifetime or any other -- cease its cries for "Mardy Bum." (Seriously, your incessant howls for "Mardy Bum" are turning me into one, girl who looks and dresses like Peter Pan.)
The four songs reunited onstage from the group's first album ("Dancing Shoes, "The View From the Afternoon," "Fake Tales of San Francisco" and "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor") served as quick pick-me-ups, all call-and-response lyrics and acerbic guitar, that periodically turned the venue into a dance club before stopping the shaking to artfully transition into the group's real breadwinners: slow-burning ballads like the earnest, endearing "Do Me a Favour."
Aside from a relatively lethargic "Old Yellow Bricks," and a much too showy rendition of Turner's soft swan song "Cornerstone," the guys changed pace as often as possible while never letting down the evening's veil of sultry capital-E Entertainment. (This is one group in which nobody leaves the drummer, in this case the painfully adept Matt Helders in the corner.)
The band tested the full range of its back catalog and had fun with it, even playfully reworking some of Turner's savvy social commentary along the way. In "Fake Tales," for example, Turner flipped, "The band were fucking wank, and I'm not having a nice time," into, "The band were very good," and the opposite result, all the while checking on his own band's reception.
"How are you doing, Denver?" (Emphatic applause.) "Jolly good."
By the end of the encore, Turner had sweated his curly coif into something resembling a devil's lock, one that not even the comb stashed in his back suit pocket could cure. Without any more shouts of "LADIEEEEES!" to loose or buttons to let loose, the band launched into soaring romantic ballad "505" and ended the night with nostalgia, air kisses and an earnest peace sign. This is a band capable of commanding its crowd and its image while staying comfortable and having fun with both. Here's hoping the band's fifth time, like the previous four, will be the charm.