Arctic Monkeys bring old hits back for San Francisco show

Skylar De Paul/Staff

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The Arctic Monkeys brought their effortless charm to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco last weekend, playing two nights of smooth, alt-rock tunes and crowd favorites for the sea of passionate fans.

The seven-piece band started the show with “Four Out Of Five,” a slower hit off of the group’s newest album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Frontman Alex Turner moved around the mic stand with Elvis Presley ease, swaying with the song and taking a seat behind the keyboard before pulling out his guitar for “Arabella.”

Turner left concertgoers swooning in an all-white suit with a silk scarf tied around his neck. The British boys typically take the stage with suave style — even after all these years, Turner still makes sure to walk out with sunglasses shading his eyes in an already dark concert venue.

But the alternative superstars didn’t just sing their recent, super-vibey hits — older, more heavy-instrumental rock tunes such as “Brianstorm” and “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” aroused loud vocals from the audience members, who jumped around with aggressive fingers pointed up toward the stage.

During the performance of “Crying Lightning,” the band played in front of a light board of twinkling bulbs timed to the wave of the music. A militant drum beat led up to the breakdown of the song and built the crowd’s energy.

“505” led Turner to the keyboard, adorning the music with a synth sound. This track was powerful and ethereal at the same time. The end of the song transitioned quickly into an instrumental synth explosion, sounding somewhat like the theme music for the boss level of an old-school spy video game.

Turner exuded 1950s greaser style during “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High,” resting his arm casually on the mic stand while he crooned the whispery scale of notes. The crowd lit up as a spectrum of lighters and camera phones pointed at the stage as soon as the dramatic bass line filled the room, smoke filling the air along with guitarist Jamie Cook’s muted tones.

Turner’s expressive hands introduced “Do Me A Favour,” matching drummer Matt Helders’ old-rock sound. The mixing of the older, fast-paced tracks from pre-2013 albums overcame the slow mellowness of the new, easy-listening sound, making for a dynamic stage performance that constantly kept listeners on their toes.

The instrumental notes slowly built into “Knee Socks,” a sensual hit off of the ever-popular AM album. The heavy falsetto section toward the end of the song was a bit of a struggle for the few vocalists, but understandably so, considering how much force it really takes to get that pitch without a vocal effect.

As the encore section of the performance began, a disco cube rotated above the crowd with a striped pattern, influenced by the new album’s cover art. With this, “Star Treatment” began softly and stayed soft the entire time. The newest album has definitely not been the most popular by fans’ standards, and this was reflected in how the crowd dully responded to tunes off of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

After this lowkey encore energy, the word “MONKEY” was shown across the top of the stage as “No. 1 Party Anthem” began. Honestly, this was another quite somber song for an encore. The band definitely could have picked better songs to end on, such as “Fluorescent Adolescent” or “A Certain Romance,” which weren’t performed at all, despite their wide popularity with early fans.

The last song, however, was anything but a disappointment. Turner said he wanted to leave the audience with a question, before laying down the intro for “R U Mine?” The song slowed to an end all too fast, and as people began to leave the venue, the band picked it back up and ended it all over again with a bigger and better conclusion to the show.

The biggest lesson that viewers learned from this show was a simple one: Alex Turner is never too old to sport aviators in the dark.

Skylar De Paul covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.