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By KATARINA MANOS
The lads of Arctic Monkeys have come a long way since Sheffield. Playing their first headlining show in Los Angeles since 2018 — aside from a quick stop at Primavera Sound LA Festival last September — the band sold out the first of three consecutive nights at the Kia Forum. Supporting their seventh studio album, “The Car,” the British four-piece, alongside their Irish opening act Fontaines D.C., proved that no stage is too big to hold back a band continually refusing to rest on their laurels.
After nearly two decades as a band, Arctic Monkeys have famously reinvented themselves every few albums, and their most recent stage design and set-up encapsulates that. Now backed by three touring musicians jumping between keyboards, drums, tambourines and guitars, the Monkeys performed on a stage designed like an early ’70s talk show. Cameras placed around the stage recorded band members through a retro, filmic lens as they sang through vintage-looking microphones and played through mid-century speakers. Lead singer Alex Turner, who has grown into his most confident and comfortable self onstage, often looked directly into these cameras as if prepared to give a wry monologue on a late-night show.
In a move that ended up capturing the spirit of the entire set, the band opened with a measured rendition of “The Cars’ “Sculptures of Anything Goes” before exploding into the electrifying “Brianstorm” from 2007’s “Favourite Worst Nightmare.” While many have argued that Arctic Monkeys have evolved so beyond their core sound — namely, starting out as a guitar-forward rock band and transforming into a more restrained lounge act — it’s clear that the band makes no such distinction when performing live. Turner strutted across the stage with equal confidence when crooning along to “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” as he did swinging his hips when singing about “Arabella.”
In step with Turner’s charismatic presence, drummer Matt Helders proved at the Kia Forum that he’s still at the top of his game. He pulled out complicated drum configurations with ease while also providing backing vocals for tracks like “Snap Out Of It” and “Arabella.” His energy and vigor was even strong enough to snap a drumstick that flew through the air during “Pretty Visitors,” and he still somehow didn’t miss a beat. Bassist Nick O’Malley really popped during a funky, extended intro to “Knee Socks” that had nearly everyone in the pit screaming. Guitarist Jamie Cook shined most during the downright erotic guitar solo in “Arabella” and heart-thumping “Do I Wanna Know?” With every lift of his guitar and small whip of his hair, Cook elevated each riff with style.
The crowd at the Kia Forum showed themselves to be well-versed and well-rounded Arctic Monkeys fans, cheering just as loud for throwback tracks like “View From the Afternoon” and “Fluorescent Adolescent” as for newer tunes such as “Hello You.” The band had barely played even two notes of “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball” — which started with Turner on the piano and ended with him strumming an acoustic guitar — before the crowd roared in one voice, prompting nearly everyone to pull out cell phones to capture the moment. The concert also reinforced the lasting effect of the now 10-year-old record “AM,” which catapulted the band to mainstream success in the United States thanks in large part to fans on Tumblr. The band played six tracks from the album — more than any other of their records that night – and each time, it felt like the crowd was drowning out Turner’s vocals by singing along with every word. (Many fans donned leather jackets, cheetah print coats or knee socks in the crowd, further showcasing the unending legacy of that record in both music and fashion.)
While it’s difficult to choose just one highlight of the night, the band’s take on “The Car’s” closing track, “Perfect Sense,” was unmatched. The song, which feels vulnerable and intimate on the record, managed to maintain a delicate tone live that didn’t get lost in the huge arena. The crowd lit up the venue with twinkling cellphone lights as Turner crooned, “If that’s what it takes to sing goodnight / then that’s what it takes,” and gentle piano keys kept the time. Fan favorite “505” continued to sound just as heart-wrenching as ever live; the band has now added a sparkling disco ball to give the song even more atmosphere.
Finally, Arctic Monkeys closed out their main set with the recent record’s second single, “Body Paint,” a devastating sing-along that perfectly captures the band’s enduring strength. Turner’s delicate vocals and evocative lyrics painted a picture of heartache and betrayal that still managed to feel explosive in a sold-out arena. During the emotional outro of the song where each band member wailed on their respective instruments, Turner blew a kiss to the crowd before closing his eyes and dropping to his knees for a guitar solo. All in one song, we see heart, emotion, pizzazz and showmanship. None of these aspects competed with one another, sitting side by side in perfect harmony. While many acts might not be able to pull that off, Arctic Monkeys certainly can.
Opening act Fontaines D.C., fiery Irish rockers who don’t feel too far off from the Monkeys’ earliest years as a band, put on an exciting show, will again be opening both nights.
Arctic Monkeys setlist: Sculptures of Anything Goes, Brianstorm, Snap Out Of It, Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair, Teddy Picker, Crying Lightning, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, Arabella, Perfect Sense, The View From the Afternoon, Knee Socks, Pretty Visitors, Fluorescent Adolescent, There’d Better Be a Mirrorball, 505, Do I Wanna Know?, Body Paint, Encore: Hello You, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, R U Mine?
Fontaines D.C. setlist: Nabokov, Televised Mind, A Lucid Dream, Big Shot, Roman Holiday, Boys In the Better Land, Jackie Down the Line, I Love You
Photos and review by Katarina Manos