With two days to go until the release of their sixth album — the conceptual, piano-driven Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino — Arctic Monekys opened their Brooklyn Steel show on Wednesday night (May 9) with a pounding delivery of “Do I Wanna Know?,” the immediately recognizable lead single from band's last album, 2013’s AM.
Considering the U.K. rockers' upcoming LP takes a turn from the festival-ready guitar rock of AM, opening the set with an established favorite (and the band's first-ever Billboard Hot 100 hit) was a comforting pat on the back for fans wary of their new direction. And though frontman Alex Turner largely tossed his guitar aside while recording the album, his signature instrument remained a main attraction during the brisk 90-minute set.
Watching the band, it felt like no time had passed — despite the five-year long hiatus — since Turner, Matt Helders (drums), Jamie Cook (guitar) and Nick O'Malley (bass), had been together on stage (during this show, all four members donned matching white button downs). Really, the only evidence of the years logged by Turner alone in his studio was his hair: no longer gelled and combed-back like a James Dean-inspired classic rocker, it instead flowed long, often falling in his eyes.
After appeasing the raucous crowd with deeper cuts like “505” off 2007's Favourite Worst Nightmare and AM hits like “Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?” Turner finally took a seat at one of two keyboards on stage to play the first new track of the night: “Four Out Of Five,” about gentrification and an overpriced tacqueria.
But Turner didn't stay seated for long; his return to guitar was swift, and the shift back to incendiary alt-rock stark. “As I was saying,” Turner quipped with a wry smile and recently cleared throat before introducing breakthrough hit “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” — subtly acknowledging that the new music, and more contemplative mood it brings, takes some adjusting to for him as well.
No matter how well-mixed the set list though, the new songs (they performed “Four Out Of Five,” “One Point Perspective,” and “She Looks Like Fun”) stood out for their sonic shift and — even for Turner — their obscure lyrics, which are better devoured while reading along with the liner notes than shouted at a packed, high-energy show. (The feeling of hearing the name “Bukowski” sang during a clamoring rock show is an unforgettable one, though.)
But still, the turbulence only made for a twisting and surprising set, one filled with the promise that though Tranquility may show a new side of the band, much like the complex model Turner crafted for its cover, it’s one of many. And when Turner held his guitar above his head in triumph after encore-closer “R U Mine?” he assured fans that the full range of what's made Arctic Monkeys one of the most enthralling alternative rock acts of the past decade will remain well on display for a long time to come.