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Arctic Monkeys treated Melbourne to a rock'n'roll spectacular, 'Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino' aside

It was a feast for the senses but tracks off their latest LP floundered.

Image source: 
Zackery Michael

It’s hard to put into words, though I’m about to try, just how impressive the Arctic Monkeys’ staging was for their first Melbourne show since 2014. The staging itself was gorgeous, set up like a ‘60s music television show, with raised platforms for the band, resting upon illuminated, angular staircases.

Despite its relative simplicity, the staging effectively created an old-school feel, elegant and polished. It was easy to forget this was Rod Laver Arena, not a swanky music lounge. That being said, the recent Rod Laver Arena developments are a decided improvement, enhancing the concert experience.

Two big screens on each side of the stadium were part of the staging itself. The stream of the band’s performance was grainy and processed by some kind of flickering, VHS style filter, adding to the heady atmosphere.

As he sang ‘Arabella’, frontman Alex Turner looked directly down the camera like a presenter from one of the aforementioned ‘60s music shows. Turner is just such a captivating frontman, able to be equal parts charming, sensual, and powerful, all with an understated, effortless manner. Though it was the drums, and the instrumentation in general, that stole the show.

Drummer Matt Helders was a particular standout, lending perfect percussion to the band’s more impressively frantic tracks like ‘Brianstorm’ and ‘I Bet That You Look Good On the Dancefloor’.

It’s these older tracks from the band that received the most adoration during the show. After the somewhat demure opening track ‘Four Out of Five’, with it’s first note, ‘Brainstorm’ immediately galvanised uncontrollable enthusiasm from the crowd, with Helder’s drum solo - complete with drumstick flipping - torn most everyone from their seats for a dance and a standing ovation.

‘Dancing Shoes’ was met with a similarly huge pop from the crowd, as did ‘505’ (which had everyone singing) and ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I Moved My Chair’. Tracks like ‘R U Mine’, ‘Snap Out Of It’, ‘Do I Wanna Know’, and ‘No 1 Party Anthem’ from 2013’s universally adored and critically acclaimed AM were lapped up by the eager crowd. In my section of the stadium alone, I had an air guitar player seated next to me, an air drummer in front of me, and a terribly uncoordinated dancer in myself.

The biggest shame of the concert was the lack of appreciation for tracks from Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which were ushered in by a huge illuminated hexagon, which floated above the stage. As the first notes of ‘Science Fiction’ rang out, the audience shifted, with a mass exodus of patrons off to get drinks, disappointing as it was a gorgeous live rendition. The track was complemented by incredible synthesisers, bringing to life the space rock feel of the album.

Though there’s no denying that the band’s sixth studio album was divisive, the tracks were performed excellently, and held their own alongside the band’s more classic and universally adored material. From start to finish, the Arctic Monkeys did not put a foot wrong. Their presence filled the arena wall to wall, possessing showmanship of the highest standard.

The show was captivating, a rare evening where time doesn’t exist, halting and speeding up at once as the crowd gets lost in the beauty of truly great music.

Highlight: I have sat here trying to pick for far too long. All of it. Don’t make me choose.

Lowlight: No ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’.

Crowd favourite: Dancing to ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’.