Pssst: the Arctic Monkeys are a big deal in America now, too. Five albums into their career, Alex Turner and company are riding their biggest hit single to date, and have evolved into a formidable live force. Amongst alt-rock’s upper echelon, the Monkeys are right up there with the Muses and Black Keys of the world, and they proved it with a swaggering Bonnaroo main stage set on Sunday (June 15).
Frontman Alex Turner is all about the bad boy image. Since dropping the track jackets and polo shirts a while ago, the singer-guitarist now dresses like a '50s greaser, shaking his hips seductively to the sludgy, Sabbathy riffs with little irony. The way he slicks back his hair leaves him with a bit of a widow’s peak, and he frequently adjusts his bangs so that they fall just so to either side. He dedicated "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" to “all the weekend’s unanswered booty calls.” The act might have been tiresome when the Monkeys were stuck in neutral after 2009’s “Humbug,” but after a set as nasty as their Bonnaroo show, it’s all part of the package deal.
The Sheffield band leaned heavily on “AM,” playing nine of its 12 tracks, just as any band touring behind its most successful record should. Opening with requisite American hit “Do I Wanna Know?” (which had already been covered at Bonnaroo over the weekend by MS MR and Sam Smith) was a bold move, but the shifting tempos across “AM” provided a satisfying ebb and flow.
When the band did dip into the fast, punkish, post-Libertines fare of its first two albums, the results were striking. The sharp hooks and spiky riffs of 2005 debut hit “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” absolutely crushed, and injected more kinetic energy into the crowd than anything else in the set. This is what happens when a song is a very talented band’s set regular for almost a decade.
After rocking through “R U Mine?” the Monkeys left the stage and never returned for an encore, content with the statement they’d made. Taking on the main stage the day after Jack White owned it with his “Seven Nation Army” (and hours prior to Elton John’s piano rolling out) is a daunting task, but with these Brits on a confidence high, the vibe was smooth, all-business, and, yes, a little sexy.
Here’s the set list from the Arctic Monkeys’ Bonnaroo show:
Do I Wanna Know?
Snap Out of It
Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair
Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
No. 1 Party Anthem
One For the Road
I Wanna Be Yours
R U Mine?