Arctic Monkeys show their range, vitality at Hollywood Bowl

Arctic Monkeys at the Hollywood Bowl, October 16th, 2018. Photo by Michelle Shiers.

Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys have sharpened up in looks and sound after 13 years and six ever-morphing studio albums. While they may appear to be more comfortable in a velvety lounge than at an unruly rock show, their first night of two at the Hollywood Bowl proved that they still have some hell-raising left to do.

Frontman Alex Turner created enough of a buzz with his hair cut and shades as the quartet — now a seven-piece live — opened their 21-song set with “Four Out of Five” from their newest album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.” Both stylish and stylized, Arctic Monkeys are officially no strangers to fame or indulgence and they’ve never been strangers to unabashed change. The band quickly went back in their catalog playing “Brianstorm,” “Snap Out Of It,” “Crying Lighting,” and “Library Pictures” — a good mix of their different sounds over the years. Still, while Arctic Monkeys seem to have embraced the sci-fi lounge soundtrack to a drunken business-casual night out, there is still the same beating heart to their songs.

Turner has a number of different personalities throughout the set — a waving crooner, a desert sludge-rocker, an indie-jangler — but no matter who he subtly transformed into, the audience was wholly in his thrall. Though he didn’t have much to say between songs, Turner has proved himself to be anything but a man of few words as his well-worn poetic license is a key part of their signature.  The band had a few red-jumpsuited videographers creeping around filming ’70s-television-type footage for the screens. Much to the delight of the audience, Turner got up close and personal singing closely, almost comically, into the lens.

The bulk of the fans at the Bowl seemed most excited to hear numbers from 2013’s “AM,” so no surprise that “No. 1 Party Anthem” turned the entire amphitheater into a starry night. With the brightest stage light pointed at Turner for most of the night, patrons might not be paying as much due attention to bassist Nick O’Malley or ripping guitarist Jamie Cook. But if you looked through the arms and smoke, you could easily see the equal innards of a machine working together to pull 17,000 fans in close on a crisp eve.

Drummer Matt Helders, who seemed to be primarily timekeeping on a lot of the “Tranquility” material, came rambunctiously alive in their chunk of older songs including “Do Me A Favour,” “Knee Socks,” and “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.” There were some slow transitions between songs as the seven players needed to shuffle and shift since the band weren’t playing to any tracks. Once in a while, it felt like you just wanted them to turn back into a quartet, put on some polo shirts, and remind us of the time back when. However, it is clear that the newly honed sophistication of Arctic Monkeys’ spaceship requires a few more hands on deck.

Just to add another swanky body into the mix, Cameron Avery joined the stage to perform keys on newer track “She Looks Like Fun.” They closed their main set with the thumping “Do I Wanna Know?,” the blaring “Pretty Visitors” and beloved time-capsule “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor”.

Although Arctic Monkeys stubbornly refused encores in their early days, a quick exit doesn’t seem feasible anymore. They returned, still slick-suited for retro-ballad “Star Treatment”, the head-pounding “Arabella” and finally one of their biggest sonic jolts “R U Mine.” Many fans have been divided by the band’s new departure into a more lunar soundscape but with rocket ship grease down the cracks of their knuckles perhaps they’ll be the first of their kind to get to the moon.

Arctic Monkeys were supported by Long Island’s ’70s revivalists The Lemon Twigs, who turned some heads with their flamboyance and lo-fi pop helmed by brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario.

Also supporting were long-time openers Mini Mansions, fronted by Michael Shuman (Queens of the Stone Age) Zach Dawes (The Last Shadow Puppets) and Tyler Parkford, who plays keys with Arctic Monkeys. Nothing short of a family affair.

The three bands reprise the show tonight at the Bowl.

Photos by Michelle Shiers