The space at Iron City was packed with fresh-faced 20-somethings on the night of Oct. 9. English rock band Arctic Monkeys was set to play on one of the last nights on a U.S. tour in support of their new album “A.M.”
Deap Vally, a relatively unknown duo from L.A., opened for the band. Performing the same strand of meat and potatoes blues rock similar to groups like The White Stripes and The Black Keys, the band was at first greeted warmly by the audience.
Frontwoman Lindsey Troy kept a very basic, repetitive formula in her guitar playing and singing. She relied more on scat like vocalisations than actual sung lyrics. Her guitar revolved around a few thumping notes, finally revealing a semi-interesting lick during the chorus.
Drummer Julie Edwards was far more interesting musically. Her flame red hair was tossed in the air as she played. Her fills and beats flowed seamlessly into one another, breaking up the monotony of Troy’s bland sticky riffs.
During the more frenetic moments of the set, Edwards would drop her head only to suddenly rise up again and swing her hair over her slender shoulders.
The girls could only hold the audience’s attention for so long. By the fourth song, the crowd was chatting loudly amongst themselves, the band on stage a mere afterthought. To their credit, Deap Vally trudged through another few songs. While briefly winning the spotlight for a spirited performance of album cut “Walk of Shame,” the band was largely ignored for most of their set.
The girls announced mid-set that they would be driving to D.C. next for a show. If they play anything like they did on Oct. 9, they will most likely experience yet another uncomfortable shutdown.
The Arctic Monkeys were the real stars of the evening. The house dimmed before they took the stage with flashing strobe lights and ominous music building over the P.A.
Eventually, the four men of the band took the stage. Lead singer Alex Turner came in full classic rock tough guy guise, his hair a stiff, greased pompadour.
“A.M.” opener “Do I Wanna Know?” began the set. While the band stood poised and sharp while playing the tune, something about the mixing was off. Turner’s vocals sounded buried.
This became even more apparent during “Brianstorm,” a furiously fast blast of math rock hailing from the band’s second album, “Favourite Worst Nightmare.” The normally pummeling drums of Matt Helders sounded muddy and lost. The guitars fared no better.
It wasn’t until their 2009 single “Crying Lightning” that the band really blasted off. Each verse built and built momentum. The short solo and explosive final verse sounded fierce and menacing. Turner belted the last line with the crowd going wild below him.
The band ripped through classics while favoring cuts from their newest album. The rocking “Arabella” from “A.M.” features a riff during the chorus that lifts directly from Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The group acknowledged this during the show, playing the original riff of the classic song during the bridge.
The sexier side of “A.M.” was played up as well. “Kneesocks” and “Snap Out of It,” while not necessarily strong on record, were played perfectly live. Only the bobbing “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” fell flat as the band couldn’t quite match the quick pace featured in the studio version.
While playing up the doomed party songs off their latest, the band knew their audience well with a set packed full of old fan favorites. From the scuttling “Dancing Shoes” to the heartsick “Cornerstone,” the boys were sure to fill the air with voices from the crowd.
Perhaps the band’s most popular song, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor,” was the highlight of the set. In terms of rip cord ready rock ’n’ roll, headbangers in the crowd and precision via the band, it was matched by no other tune on the set list.
The only classic to fall flat was the sex-deprived pop single “Fluorescent Adolescent.” Normally a bright, jaunty favorite, the band seemed either tired or bored by playing it.
Turner and company returned after a screeching encore by the crowd. From the climactic “Do Me A Favour” to the new, rocket fueled “R U Mine?,” the band put tons of energy into their closing number. The Arctic Monkeys promised to return to Birmingham, and after a long slow goodbye, walked off the into the darkness backstage.