With controversial new album Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino (TBH&C) under the belt, British rock legends Arctic Monkeys returned to Perth Arena last Saturday night after a five-year break to deliver a stellar set.
L.A. psychedelic pop group Mini Mansions opened to a head-bopping audience with bouncy synth-driven tracks like Mirror Mountain, Death is a Girl, Midnight in Tokyo along with Vertigo, which featured Alex Turner in the studio recording, but not in concert.
Intermittently flashing red lights and loud cheers introduced the Arctic Monkeys, consisting of Turner, Matt Helders (drums), Jamie Cook (guitar), Nick O’Malley (bass), and an additional four touring members onto the stage as they began with Four Out of Five.
Amid the soft keys and Turner’s falsetto was the presence of a giant hexagonal light hovering over the band, a symbol well-recognised from their most recent album.
I’m not sure if the setup looked more like a ‘70s talk show or a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
They then upped the tempo with Brianstorm, a grungy-guitar classic with the fierce pitter-patter of Helders’ drumming, which riled up the mosh pit of riff-singing admirers.
The 21-song setlist featured a well-constructed mix of old and new tunes from across their six albums. Aggressive, riff-heavy tracks like Teddy Picker, Crying Lightning, Pretty Visitors and Library Pictures interwove with the sexed-up rock/R&B fusion of AM’s Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High and Knee Socks. Not to mention, the ‘70s piano lounge trip of TBH&C’s One Point Perspective and She Looks Like Fun.
The combination of jazz piano and laid-back drumbeats ripe in TBH&C weren’t the best to take your shirt off and dance on your friend’s shoulders to (it happened), so more seasoned fans were happy to see that the set only included five songs from TBH&C, with the other 16 hailing from their older, more riff-driven albums. This is where the real headbanging and shirtless antics occurred.
Turner delivered a genuine performance with the solemn 505 and love song Cornerstone. The track mentioned Turner catching a whiff of an ex-lover’s scent on a seatbelt, which the leather-jacket-clad star expressed was in our coastal town.
“It was actually in Perth, that seatbelt, truthfully, on the way back from the beach with sandy feet.”
It’s nice to think our city is more than just okay, but some quick research would suggest that Turner often changes up his post-Cornerstone narration to address the city he plays in.
The sound system was loud and impeccable over the screaming fans, and the lighting sequence added a visual dimension to the songs, especially in replicating the heavy reds and greens present in the Four Out of Five and TBH&C music videos.
Do Me a Favour, Snap Out of It and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair were among songs which led up to the chart-topping Do I Wanna Know and a faux send-off with the energetic I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, the only song from their debut album.
The Monkeys departed the stage and, after a suspenseful wait, came on for a solid three-song encore.
Star Treatment saw the arena light up in a galaxy of phone torches as cheesy disco balls spun on the stage, an embodiment of TBH&C’s ‘70s style and interstellar themes.
“The star treatment for you Perth, it’s what you deserve,” Turner announced.
Let’s be real. He was getting the star treatment.
They finished up the 100-minute set spectacularly with Arabella and R U Mine?, lyrics booming around the arena as fans sung them right back.
At a concert, you often appreciate how the musical experience is so much more than auditory. Speaking to Triple J in 2018, Turner discussed the immersive quality of music.
“[W]hen you really fall in love with [a record], it does seem like a place you go … sometimes, you move in for a while.”
The tunes, the lights, the atmosphere. Turner and the band really brought the audience to a special place that Saturday night, perhaps a little part of their rocky lunar surface.