Monkeys rock out in Ohio


Whether you’re a fan of the mosh pit or not, it’s a given that something’s wrong when what’s… Whether you’re a fan of the mosh pit or not, it’s a given that something’s wrong when what’s happening on the floor takes attention away from what’s happening on the stage. Especially when that includes the band’s attention.

But the action on the floor of the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio, last Tuesday night at the Arctic Monkeys’ show seemed to both amuse and annoy the English group, composed of Alex Turner, Matt Helders, Jamie Cooke and Nick O’Malley. Apparently the uber-Americanized version of sweaty, drunken roll-arounds doesn’t translate.

The boys made no attempt to disguise their thoughts on the situation either: beat boy Helders wide-grinned and guffawed his way through it. Frontman Turner tossed a perturbed head nod towards guitarist Cooke during one song and then stopped in the middle of it to quip, “That’s embarrassing” to the teenagers rolling around on the floor.

The fact that Turner was singing to a crowd made largely of the very blokes he describes in his songs only served to make an already tired performance feel even more disconnected. It was unfortunate; it wasn’t the band’s fault that OSU doesn’t play football games on Tuesday nights, so the notoriously rowdy bunch of students chose to direct their energy elsewhere.

This being Arctic Monkeys’ fifth show on their second North American tour this summer, following a full lineup of festivals in Europe and preceding a show at the Austin City Limits festival this weekend, the band simply looked physically drained. It rushed through the set with abnormal imprecision, and Turner – never one for gaudy tactics – seemed more lackadaisical than usual in delivering his lyrics. Bassist O’Malley practically stood in place all night.

But the mark of a true rock band is consistently bringing a good show even when external elements prove too much. The band pushed to show they weren’t disinterested, just tired, and the energy that filled the house throughout its entire performance spoke for itself.

The band powered through the first four songs nonstop, opening with an electric “This House is a Circus” and challenging itself to a sprint race with “From the Ritz to the Rubble.” The heavier chords, stronger bass lines and harder driving drums from its latest release, Favourite Worst Nightmare, came through as forcefully as expected. And the one glitz factor of the show, the lighting, effectively transmitted the kinks of the songs’ rhythms and timing into visuals. The band kept the frenetic intensity up until the end, playing none of the melancholic quasi-ballads that show up on its studio releases, save for a soft sample of a tune-in-the-making as a play-in to its signature outro, “A Certain Romance.”

Considering the Arctic Monkeys are still relatively new to the scene (its debut album only came out about 20 months ago), it has shown it can handle the pressure of such fast and furious fame – that is, if it even notices the pressure at all. Performances like the one Tuesday night showed the band doing what it does best. It simply plays the music the way the members want to: hard, dense, electrified and intense. No small part of its avoiding the sophomore slump comes from the fact that it doesn’t rely on gimmicks to carry it through – it doesn’t need to.

Sure, the band’s fatigue was visible. The performance was messy, even sloppy at times. And half the audience paid more attention to Joe Schmoe throwing himself onto the crowd than the actual music coming from the speakers. But the raw quality of the music transcended above these problems. Bottom line: Monkeys on a bad night beats lesser bands on a perfect one, every time.