"Beneath the tranquil veneer on show, still flows the wild current of a rock band."
Buckle up people, we are off to the Arctic Monkey’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, captained by the magnetic British band. We may be in for a bumpy ride but for fans it will be one you won’t want to miss.
Arctic Monkeys last graced the west coast in support of their smash album AM back in 2014. This time around, on the first stop on their Australian tour, they’ve come back to offer their newest endeavour, a concept album centred around a hotel on the moon. It’s an album that would suggest a pivot point for the band as they embrace a sci-fi lounge vibe while seemingly have jettisoned their former guitar sounds into the vacuum of space. Which therein lies the rub of this tour. How do they mix their previous brawny material with their now more considered and refined songs?
The good news is that they still exuded that classic rock swagger that gave everyone in the packed RAC Arena enough of a reason to get their hands in the air and bounce along to those gritty guitar hooks. With Mini Mansions joining the trip, it was a heady night of indie-rock.
Mini Mansions the group consisting of Tyler Parkford, Michael Shuman and Zach Dawes, production and style wise, are perfect bedfellows of Arctic Monkeys with their pastel suits and alluring energy. Performing on a stage simply bearing their name, the band harked backed to good old ‘70s rock as they gave a good outing to songs like Vertigo. Closing with Honey I’m Home, it gave the band a chance to really flex and dig deep into the rhythm of the song. Ending the song with a hearty scream they had primed the audience, giving Arctic Monkeys a perfect runaway to lift off from.
It was no shock Arctic Monkeys’ set design would follow on from their conceptual album. What was so surprising was how similar it looked to the lobby of an InterContinental hotel. Taupe backlit panels with gold trim lighting provided the main backdrop for the stage, along with with a hexagonal pendant light that dropped slowly from the ceiling upon commencement of the show. Muted neutral tones are hardly rock’n’roll but with the commencement of Four Out Of Five it fittingly all made sense.
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It was a solid introduction, and as frontman Alex Turner enticingly sang about a highly rated taco bar situated on the moon, the crowd knew they were in for some surprises.
From there it was a heavy smack of indie-rock with the petulant urgency of Brainstorm from 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare followed quickly by the swing of Snap Out Of It from 2013’s AM and then Crying Lightning from 2009’s Humbug. There was a satisfying weight to these songs that was grounded in the polished performance of fellow band members Jamie Cook (keys), Matt Helders (drums) and Nick O’Malley (bass), and the crowd were clearly living for it from the many evident bobbing heads.
Right off the bat, Turner looked like a familiar hybrid of Noel Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Ashcroft as he owned the stage dressed in boots, metal-rimmed glasses and an obligatory leather jacket; he’s pure rockstar material. Additionally, the rest of the band staked their claim on the stage as they played tightly, notably on a sprightly outing of Teddy Picker.
The hexagon light made another appearance to cue another TBH&C song as it descended down over the band like a halo. One Point Perspective had many deciding this was the time for a drinks break, whilst Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino slowed the pace down, showing Turner at his most indulgent, Bowie-esque best as he crooned, peering intermittently to the audience as if checking if we were all still there.
Aesthetically the concept of TBH&C is entrancing and weirdly fun but laid bare against their previous material it felt skewed, as it tried to take their audience to a world that they didn’t fully understand or particularly felt like visiting.
With that said, overall Arctic Monkeys did a solid job of amalgamating what really is such a varied soundscape of material into a cohesive setlist., While there were moments of charged sexuality with Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, the band would then change gears with the post-punk driven Library Pictures before getting misty-eyed with Cornerstone.
Arctic Monkeys know how to transition between each incarnation and they do it well evidenced by a crowd that was willing to come along for the journey, hollering when their favourite guitar riffs intro’d a song. The woozy, wine-drunk Do I Wanna Know? showed the band in all their arresting seductive glory but it was I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor that had the arena finally on their feet. They are a long way from the young Sheffield lads they once were but time brings wisdom and this group know how to deliver a concert that is still brilliantly British and utterly insistent on getting a crowd to let loose.
After an extended wait, the group came out for their encore to give us Star Treatment. Arabella followed next with the band now performing under large flashing “monkeys” lettering before closing it all down with a bone-rattling version of R U Mine?. While their current predilection may resonate with fans as more down to earth than out of this world, there is still evidence that beneath the tranquil veneer on show, still flows the wild current of a rock band.