Arctic Monkeys & The Like, Hollywood Palladium, September 15, 2009
In a year where the increasingly pointless Oasis has finally kicked the bucket, Blur’s classic lineup reunites and The Stone Roses debut celebrates it’s 20th anniversary, Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys have emerged as their sons and heirs to a Britpop throne, though, thankfully, not obviously influenced by either of those elder bands.
They’ve come a long way and fast. Six years and three LPs into it, they have an enviable bag of tunes and have already gone through the growing phases that most bands do over a long career: long hair, seeking out American influences (specifically, Josh Homme), attempts at a “mature” mellower sound, etc.
Taking the stage to some up-tempo big beat and surprisingly loud shrill screams, their hour and a half set easily wins over the Palladium tonight, admittedly a partisan crowd. These are clearly songs that are saying something to these particular kids about their lives. The opening seamless transition from the moody slowburner “Dangerous Animals” from the new LP, smashing straight into “Brianstorm” is energizing; first single “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” tossed off confidently mid-set is received warmly like a returning old friend, complete with crowd-provided falsetto backing vocals. “Fluorescent Adolescent,” saved for the encore, might be the best of all, a perfect pop tune, hitting that trifecta of memorable riff, melody and lyric.
And these are all memorable tunes, each with distinct personalities, and something all too rare in indie rock. While the music is composed under full band credit and the accompanying imagery is sure to always depict the Arctics as a unit, there is no denying Alex Turner is the star here. With impressively dexterous delivery and lyrical territory somewhere between The Kinks, Morrissey and Mike Skinner, he really has come into his own as a singular voice. His words are playfully witty and weave a mix of precisely observed kitchen-sink realism and big, broad metaphor. And, at only 23, has miles of headroom for continued growth. In fact the whole band is mostly 23, with lead guitarist Jamie Cook the elder of the band, at all of 24. One can only imagine what they might be capable of by the time they reach, say, all of 30 years old. Here’s to looking forward to their “Kid A” phase.
The Like, playing just their second show with new two members on bass and keys, opened. Coming up on 8 (!) years fronting The Like, performing for a crowd is old hat for Z Berg, which can cut both ways: one admires the chops but also hopes that pure professionalism doesn’t eclipse a sense of fun and playfulness, as does seem to happen a couple of moments. Their songs are there, but their busy structures can fatigue the ear when run quickly one after another live; you long for the occasional dumbed down Pixies-ish three chord hooky tune thrown in for variety. With a prominent church organ top line on just about every song they play tonight and Mark Ronson recording their new record, it is safe to assume they are aiming for a more 60’s sound (not to mention they close their set with an Everly Brothers cover.) Hopefully they don’t entirely ditch the warm ethereal feel that their first album had.