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Summerfest review: Arctic Monkeys thrill the masses

The lights go down on thousands of people packed around the Miller Lite Oasis stage. It’s a rather frigid June night, and some dedicated fans have been posted up near the stage for over 10 hours just waiting for this very moment. As the shadowy, backlit figure of lead man Alex Turner emerges from the dark and saunters across the stage, the crowd erupts into an electric roar…the anticipation is over.

British rock band Arctic Monkeys has experienced quite the wild ride since its inception over a decade ago. Alex Turner, a slightly awkward, disheveled-looking young man at the time, fronted the band through a handful of successful brawny punk releases, Humbug and Suck It and See being a notable two. In 2012, the Arctic Monkeys toured North America as the opening act for the Black Keys, further establishing themselves in the alternative scene. However, it wasn’t until the Monkeys’ released their skinny-jeaned, funk-infused 2013 album,  AM, that they turned the heads of people all over the globe. Refusing to be pigeonholed, the Arctic Monkeys offered a refreshing alteration to their norm with AM’s tidy blend of moody post-punk jams, undulating lusty ballads, and contagiously dance-able melodies. Some call it the band’s most satisfying record, and it catapulted them into overwhelming mainstream success. Turner, now a slick, leather-jacket-wearing, cigarette-smoking heartthrob, and the band, now a chart-topping, no-nonsense musical force, have been selling out venue after venue on their current  AM tour. Their Summerfest stop was no exception. If you got to the fest after 6PM, chances are the Miller Lite Stage was already overflowing with Arctic Monkeys fans, some toting signs that read “Would a kiss be too much to ask?” and “Alex, I bet you look good on the dance floor.”

The Arctic Monkeys began their highly anticipated show accompanied by fog and flashing white lights as they pounded out current hit single “Do I Wanna Know?.” This stomping, pitch-black party song cast a wild energy over the crowd that would remain for the duration of the concert. The following song played was the lively “Snap Out Of It,” and “Arabella,” both from AM. The group generally focused on playing songs from the hit record, which made sense considering that album was what triggered the onslaught of new (generally teenaged) Arctic Monkeys fans. However, the band thrilled their entire spectrum of followers with the growling, no-holds-barred early hits including “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” “Fluorescent Adolescent,” and “Crying Lightning.” Alex Turner and the band wasted hardly any time between songs, keeping their set delightfully trim. The show slowed down for a much-needed breather during the lyrical, swoon-worthy “No. 1 Party Anthem” that Turner played with an acoustic guitar, eliciting a swaying light show of cell phones and lighters in the audience.

When it was time for the encore, Turner came back onstage with a cigarette in his mouth, which he coolly threw aside to pick up his guitar. The final song of the night, “R U Mine?” provided the perfect grand finale. Fans belted along to Turner, who crooned the famous line, “R U mine tomorrow? / Or just mine tonight?” into the dark, foggy Milwaukee night.

To sum it up, the Arctic Monkeys gave its Summerfest crowd exactly what they came for. And if I were in charge of the setlist, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Onstage, the band both visually and sonically brought to life the dark-hued magic of AM while making much-needed room for the songs that carried them to this point. Equal parts professional and exhilarating, the Arctic Monkeys did not disappoint.

If you went to the show, share your thoughts and reactions!

HYFIN Program Director | Radio Milwaukee