Arctic Monkeys @ the Malkin Bowl, 9/20/09

Arctic Monkeys
No matter what they do, Arctic Monkeys are probably doomed to be remembered for their first album and nothing else. Not to suggest that Humbug, the group’s latest, is bad—it isn’t. But it and its predecessor, 2007′s Favourite Worst Nightmare, lack the punkish fury and biting lyrical wit that made Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not the fastest-selling debut in British history (at the time—that record has since been beaten by Leona Lewis‘s Spirit).

During their Sunday evening show at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl, Arctic Monkeys seemed eager to escape being pigeonholed as one-album wonders. They only played three tracks off their debut—”Still Take You Home,” “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “The View from the Afternoon”—which was a shame, since they were the best three songs of the night, both in terms of performance and audience response. The band cut loose during these songs, firing off riffs and thundering fills that whipped up the crowd into a moshing, crowd-surfing frenzy.

The majority of the set was made up of material from the past two albums, plus the occasional B-side and cover (they played a version of “Red Right Hand” that sounded a lot closer to typical Monkeys than it did the Nick Cave original). The band had a fifth member in tow, who provided keyboards and guitar. This allowed the band to recreate Humbug‘s lush arrangements, and also offered frontman Alex Turner the opportunity to set aside his guitar for a few songs. Unfortunately, he looked uncomfortable without an instrument strapped to his chest, and wandered around awkwardly during a take on “Pretty Visitors.”

The newer songs seemed a little lifeless compared to the early cuts, and despite the impressive instrumentation—guitarist Jamie Cook used different effects pedals on seemingly every tune—they mostly just highlighted how much better Arctic Monkeys are when they keep it simple. The set ended with the slow-building, organ-drenched “505.” It was a strong finale, but I couldn’t help but wish they would have played “When the Sun Goes Down” or “A Certain Romance” instead.
 
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