All the pretty visitors came and waved their arms Thursday night as the Arctic Monkeys treated fans at Flatbush’s Kings Theatre to an all-star lineup of hits and new material. The sold-out show marked the first time since 2018 that the four-piece Sheffield outfit played New York City or had any kind of Stateside headlining gig.
To celebrate the occasion — or perhaps the band’s twentieth anniversary, or the upcoming release of its seventh album, “The Car,” slated for October 21—the cell phone-free concert was professionally filmed, resulting in an unforgettable night for 3,000 fans.
Much to the crowd’s delight, the night kicked off with the debut live performance of “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball.” Despite being released only three weeks before the show, the crowd sang along as if the band had known it for years. As a disco ball lowered during the final notes of the tune, the crowd went nuts, proving early on they were capable of bringing a concert film to life.
Frontman Alex Turner and bandmates Matt Helders (drums), Jamie Cook (guitar), and Nick O’Malley (bass) then pivoted and took the audience on a journey through the band’s better-known discography. From hits like “Do I Wanna Know?” and “R U Mine?” to mosh-inducing tracks like “Brianstorm” and “From The Ritz To The Rubble” and soulful croonings “Cornerstone” and “The Ultracheese,” the 22-song set left little for a fan to desire.
Throughout the night the band introduced three more new songs, two of which were live debuts.
Photo: Will Oliver
“I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” is an upbeat funk tune featuring squawky guitar lines and vocal harmonies. The band has played it on the festival circuit for the last month and despite it not being released yet, some die-hard fans still sang along, again.
“Mr. Schwartz,” an intimate piano and electric guitar duo, found Turner in the center of a spotlight in full crooner mode. If there was any question as to whether or not the band would lean further into the soulful crooning championed on their last album, “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino,” this was the answer.
The band traded the gigantic neon “MONKEYS” sign that had accompanied them on previous tours for velvet curtains, vintage lights, and a shag rug that effectively turned the French Baroque theater into a slick cocktail lounge.
There is, no doubt, a faction of fans who wish the band would return to its earliest form and put out more angsty punk songs and fuzzed-out rock anthems, But Thursday night’s show suggests that the band has evolved. If the crowd’s response is any indication, it seems most Arctic Monkeys fans have followed them.
“Body Paint,” a standout new tune, is epic in scope, featuring dramatic piano and guitar parts. As Turner sang the opening lines — “For a master of subterfuge / You’ve made yourself quite the bed, to lie in / Do your time traveling in the tanning booth / So you don’t let the sun catch you crying” — imagery of a lover hiding their true feelings arose. We wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the final single ahead of release day.
At the risk of someone leaking the new album with only a month to go until its release, it perhaps makes sense the band didn’t play “The Car” in its entirety. And in the end, the set wasn’t that different from recent festival sets. If it’s released as an album it’ll make a solid counterpart to the band’s 2020 “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” record but one has to wonder if playing “The Car” in its entirety would have made the film more special in the long run.
Regardless, fans didn’t seem to care and cheered louder along to each song.
After closing the encore — a powerful rendition of “505” — there was a palpable sense that the crowd had experienced something special. It was a treat to see a band who regularly plays to tens of thousands of festival attendees in such an intimate setting. Excited murmurs about the film — to be released at some unspecified date on some unspecified platform — and new album could be heard from the crowd as they exited onto Flatbush Avenue.