The Arctic Monkeys brought it to Agganis Arena Thursday night. While overall the show was filled with starkly contrasted musical tastes, styles and talents, the Arctic Monkeys firmly proved that they are one of this generation’s most talented, incendiary rock and roll powerhouses.
The night itself was nearly crippled at the start by truly the worst opening act that had ever set foot on the Agganis stage. Chicago’s The Orwells appeared like they may have had some semblance of musical talent: Their attires ranged from hipster to old-school punk and the frontman’s impressively long hair suggested a large stage presence. However, it quickly became clear that these dullards were no more musicians than chemical engineers were.
They staggered through 40 minutes of screeching guitar riffs and tired drum beats while the singer convulsed onstage in a sweaty fit of screaming vocals and nonsensical lyrics. No band member showed any ability to adequately write or perform music and the set seemed more akin to a couple teenagers tripping on acid in their stepdad’s garage than a real band at a stadium show. This despicable “band” was an embarrassment and the second opening act could only be an improvement.
Deerhunter, the Monkeys’ special guest for their New York and Boston shows, shambled onstage, bathed in a psychedelic mix of purple and green light. And though they used some creative synths and reverbs, their set was trippy but ultimately unsatisfying. Infinitely more streamlined and musically inclined than their predecessors of the evening, they still ended up a bit too screechy and —while not momentously bad like The Orwells — completely forgettable. Thankfully, these two bands were well worth suffering through for the night’s headliners.
Walking out to a thundering wave of applause and screams, the Arctic Monkeys dove into their sexy, smoldering single “Do I Wanna Know?” from their newest album AM. The slow, sensual beat provided an excuse for singer Alex Turner to gyrate his hips for a few minutes, and whisper sweet nothings into the collective ear of the crowd’s — surprisingly large — teenage girl population.
With each subsequent song, those teenage girls grew more frenzied until it seemed that the guardrails holding them back from their idols would bend with the stress. Turner and his band clearly knew whom they were playing for. From the near-constant bath of red lights around the band to the hyper-sexualized lyrics, the Monkeys capitalize on the teenage fascination with sex, but in a classier, British way.
But the Arctic Monkeys weren’t just panning to the crowd’s hormones; they were proving their place among this generation’s legendary rock and roll acts. The band seemed to have limitless energy. And the songs only became quicker and higher-octane with bigger and bigger hits “Dancing Shoes” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” coming in rapid succession. Seemingly able to frenzy the crowd at will, the Monkeys had a field day playing their big, menacing hits followed by lesser-known but still-rowdy songs like “Fireside” and “Knee Socks.”
About an hour into the set, Agganis exploded when the Monkeys played their biggest hit, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.” Every person, from aging parents to pre-teen fan-girls, belted out the lyrics to this clear crowd favorite. The crowd’s fever was matched only by that of the equally explosive band. Jumping around and playing their instruments to high hell like a British Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Arctic Monkeys cleared away any doubts about the legitimacy of their rock and roll royalty. The song’s ending notes were met with deafening cheers, almost as loud as the music itself.
Directly after, in a refreshing show of versatility, the band played their softer ballad “I Wanna Be Yours.” Though there was not a single cheer or clap throughout, hundreds of phone lights turned on and began waving through the air. It was mesmerizing. Similar ballads by 70s rock bands like The Who or Led Zeppelin would be met with hundreds of swaying lighters. But this isn’t the 70s and the Arctic Monkeys are a rock band for this generation. This was rock and roll. This was the ability of a legendary rock and roll band: to whirl a crowd to implosion one song, and to subdue them into a trance the next.
The band played seventeen songs in their set before leaving the stage, but the crowd wanted more. For five minutes straight, the masses screamed for the Monkeys to return to the stage, and return they did. The band closed out this incredibly diverse show with an incredibly diverse microcosm of an encore. Starting with the mellower, acoustic track “Cornerstone” and ending with another potent hit from their new album, “R U Mine?,” the Arctic Monkeys came full circle in this shockingly great show by one of this generation’s solidified rock and roll deities.