Flashing red lights illuminated TD Garden and marked Arctic Monkeys’ landing in Boston on Friday night. The British rock sensation worked its way through a set list of angst-filled classics from their first five albums and fresh space-age spectacles from their latest album, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino.
Los Angeles-based rock band Mini Mansions warmed up the crowd with bass-heavy jams. The band, which was founded by Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Michael Shuman, dazzled in sharp suits of pink, gold, and blue, and the crowd cheered on the drummer as he ditched his suit jacket and showed off his vintage Celtics tee. Shuman energized the crowd with passionate performances of new songs “Midnight in Tokyo” and “Works Every Time,” as well as the band’s hit “Vertigo,” during which Shuman filled in for Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner on his featured verse.
Screams filled the venue when the four-man band took the stage, but the crowd remained relatively calm for the band’s performance of “Four Out of Five.” The concert’s tame opening was no indication of the insanity that would ensue during “Brianstorm,” a fan-favorite from the 2007 album Favourite Worst Nightmare. Arctic Monkeys experienced a “Seven Nation Army” moment as the sea of thrashing bodies echoed the opening guitar chords.
The charismatic lead singer shielded his eyes from the dramatic spotlight during the opening verse of “Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” with retro yellow-lens sunglasses before flashing white lights and a ferocious drum beat overcame the arena. A further descent into Monkeys madness was warranted by following tracks “Crying Lightning” and “Teddy Picker,” during which the crowd coherently chanted the song’s fast-paced bridge.
Arctic Monkeys broke up fearsome Favourite Worst Nightmare hits “505” and “Do Me a Favour” with “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino,” a tactic that insulated the band’s more recent tranquil tracks with their former raucous garage rock anthems throughout the night. The crowd joined Turner in crooning the lyrics to “505” as he intently played a keyboard in center stage, and the explosive sound of the line “But I crumble completely when you cry” filled the hazy air. Drummer Matt Helders extended the winding drum-driven intro to “Do Me a Favour” as Turner propped his leg on the keyboard and provided the interwoven guitar chords for the building track.
Thousands of cell phone flashlights lit up TD Garden for “Cornerstone” and “The Ultracheese,” two juxtaposed quintessential Arctic Monkeys love songs. Turner demonstrated his mastery of rockstar stage presence as he paraded around the stage and acted out the lyrics to the Humbug hit, messing with a nonexistent smoke alarm and faking a broken arm while leaning on an amp, and he passionately screamed the lyrics to the latter cheesy brooding ballad while kneeling at front center stage.
Saving the best for last, the band of Brits began playing hits from its 2013 platinum album AM toward the end of the set. Turner feigned boredom with the lyrics of “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” as he made blah-blah gestures with his hands, but prolonged “Knee Socks” with an impromptu high note at the end. Arctic Monkeys touched base with another new track, “Batphone,” before returning to AM with bass-dripping radio resident “Do I Wanna Know?”
Strobe lights and smoke crowded the room and transformed the Garden into a sweaty garage for the 2006 dance anthem “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.” Moshing ensued in the general admission pit and continued well into “Pretty Visitors,” before which Turner stood swinging his suit jacket around like a bullfighter with a red cape facing the drums and signaled a battle between Helders’ menacing drum beat and Jamie Cook’s vicious guitar riffs. Turner rolled around the stage as crowd members began to crowd surf during the song. The band left the audience with a rousing performance of “Arabella,” Turner emphasizing lyrics with added expletives like “And her f—king lips are like the galaxy’s edge.” The crowd’s energy climbed with each stroke of the guitar, leaving the arena drowning in massive applause and screams.
After a 10-minute break, the band returned with three more tracks and a rotating black-box skylight to project synthetic constellations into the dark arena. “Star Treatment” kicked off the encore, the crowd chanting the first line “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes” in unison, perhaps hoping for a Strokes cover in the encore like the “Is This It” cover the band gave just days before in New York. In a sly nod to Arctic Monkeys’ Strokes-inspired garage rock beginnings, “The View From the Afternoon” served as the final reminder of the British band’s roots with a guitar face off between Turner and Cook.
A rowdy rendition of “R U Mine?” rounded out the night, the lights dimming whenever Turner’s skillful riffs weren’t commanding the stage to create an intense ending. Arctic Monkeys gave fans one last taste of unrestrained rage with a repetition of the chorus at the end, the crowd echoing one final “Are you mine?”
While pop princess Taylor Swift was enchanting an enormous audience down the road at Gillette Stadium, Arctic Monkeys reminded Boston that even if rock ’n’ roll is dead, rockers can still plug in their amps and make the people dance for a night.
Featured Image by Domino Recording Company