Photos Cred: Jeff Parsons
Who: Arctic Monkeys
Where: Kool Haus, Toronto
When: September 29th 2009
Nestled in a dark and dreary setting underneath dismal Toronto streetlights, the Kool Haus never looked better. Instead of attracting energized individuals looking to portray their inhuman dancing skills to a digitized beat, the venue was littered with a different crowd. Intoxicated fellows hollered with their mates about nonsense, elegant damsels made statements with entrancing stares and even swarms of British folk added a sense of rowdiness. Such diversity is peculiar for a concert in such a city, but there’s a reason for every unusual act.
Tonight’s gig was sold out.
Instead of looking like the average Toronto crowd, the sea of music enthusiasts transformed the image of the venue into a large, grimy yet classy European pub. One that was truly packed to the back wall and was about to be serenaded by a group of Englishmen who hadn’t seen the city for a long while. After a few somewhat persuasive chants from on-lookers, the Arctic Monkeys swayed on stage and were instantly received with cheers and outlandish outbursts. Their response was the haunting intro of “Dance Little Liar” which ignited the crowd and started off the explosive hour-and-20 minute set.
Announced sophomore slumps, the Arctic Monkeys recently released Humbug, a Jimi Hendrix/Cream-inspired record that breathes 60s’ air and stimulating melodies. Unlike their adolescent work, the release has a gentlemen touch which could evidently be found in frontman Alex Turner’s voice. As he soothed the atmosphere in front of him with hushed yet charming vocals, every ear found in the audience knew it was a setup. The lighter side of the Monkeys was quietly introducing a reason why they’ve become so famous: bewitching musical breakdowns.
In the live renditions of numbers such “Brianstorm”, “Crying Lightning” and “This House Is A Circus”, quaint solos and monstrous transitions make their recordings look unpolished. When Turner, guitarist Jamie Cook and bassist Nick O’Malley pummel through a series of riffs, they unleash a side of them you rarely see elsewhere. Critics questioned their recent appearance, consisting of unkept locks of hair and ragged attire, but the reason for it is simple. When you want to rock out, the best way to do so is with a shag that would make a Woodstock attendee jealous, not a fresh haircut. The trio proved that as they violently shook the musical energy out of their hair, hoping it would transfer to others around them, which it rightly did.
One new aspect brought to the stage by the Arctic Monkeys was the presence of Turner. Known for his intimidating combination of youthful lyrics and guitar work, the frontman took things into a new direction for a few tracks and solely grasped the mic like a drugged-out 90s’ singer. For “Potion Approaching”, Turner crooned, focusing on his vocals, making sure they’re perfect and timeless. Little did he know they were also provocative as they slowly influenced female listeners to remove articles of clothing so they could bare their skin underneath the lights.
“You look good Toronto,” remarked Turner.
So did the set list as the group waded through favourites such as “I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor”, “View From The Afternoon” and “Do Me A Favour”. There were a few classics that were missing, but a trip through Humbug, an encore with a Nick Cave cover and a final note like “505” did the trick for everyone in attendance.
One thing that’s remarkable about the Arctic Monkeys is their chemistry. Fans rave about acts and how they sound and play spectacular together, but its not as dynamic as what floats between these four men and their instruments. In a single moment, Turner’s vocals may highly entertain you but in a second, an enticing riff or thunderous drum fill will lovingly punish your senses.
Sounds like a bit much, but it’s enough to satisfy you until they visit again in a few years.