Review: Arctic Monkeys Make Blistering Return to Minnesota

Friday’s concert at The Armory kicks off U.S. tour
Arctic Monkeys

Zackery Michael

The Twin Cities wilted under a wave of muggy heat the week leading up to Arctic Monkeys long-awaited return to Minnesota on Aug. 25. The lingering swelter on Friday did not deter the younger-skewing fans from lining up around the block on both sides of The Armory and halfway to US Bank Stadium. It had been a decade since the band played First Avenue while touring for “AM,” the album that thrust them into the American spotlight. Touring North America again in support of a new album, “The Car,” with Irish post-punks Fontaines D.C., Arctic Monkeys kicked off the first stop of their tour with a performance to remember—one good enough to make you forget they skipped Minnesota completely when they toured 2018’s loungy, divisive “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.”

The anticipation was apparent when the doors opened. You could close your eyes and pretend you were at a public swimming pool—security guards doubled as lifeguards, fruitlessly yelling at teens/Xenniels clad in little black dresses, Strokes t-shirts, and chunky Doc Martens to “stop running” and “slow down” as they bolted to the front.

Seven albums and 20 years have transformed the Sheffield, England quartet from scrappy teenagers with nothing but guitar, bass, and drums to seasoned pros who know what they’re doing. The band’s entrance to the body-vibrating bass of the new  “Sculptures of Anything Goes” was punctuated by Alex Turner’s perfectly-coiffed hair and the trademark sunglasses he began wearing when the band’s fame began snowballing in the United States.

It led into banger after banger, the crowd losing their minds (in a respectful Minnesotan way) when guitarist Jamie Cooks, bassist Nick O’Malley, and drummer/background vocalist/secret weapon Matt Helders dialed up “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair,” the only song from the Josh Homme-produced “Suck It And See” to make its way onto the setlist. Turner said a few words to the crowd, but few needed to be said when everyone seemed to be as enraptured as they were.

The middle of the set sampled their whole discography, with winning highlights like “Four Out of Five,” “Do Me a Favour,” and “Arabella,” with a brief nod to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” included.

The penultimate track of the main set had me and everyone else present pinching their arms to ensure this was really happening, as the robotic beat and unforgettable riff of “Do I Wanna Know” filled the cavernous venue. (I initially thought that riff was a sample because I couldn’t believe music like that was being made anymore.) Their biggest hit earned a sea of shaky cell phone recordings and enthusiastic head banging, a scene soon to be replicated during the encore.

After closing with an extended run through “The Car” highlight  “Body Paint,” the encore blessed us with three extra tunes, including their very first single, “I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor.” When the Monkeys walked off after a blistering “R U Mine?” they left thousands of people in awe, their return to Minnesota a triumph. Their ever-evolving sound makes for a riveting live show, causing whiplash in the most exciting of ways and creating an atmosphere so magical, we missed the last train out of Minneapolis to St. Paul that night.

Opener Fontaines D.C. are an Irish five-piece with three albums under their belt. They clearly knew how to appeal to the locals, walking on to “Swingin’ Party” by The Replacements before easing into their set with “A Lucid Dream.” Frontman Grian Chatten’s brogue rode atop some face-melting guitar and a divine rhythm section, most notably on “Nabokov” and “I Love You,” a song both fast-paced and strikingly poetic. They were named the best band in the world by Britain’s New Music Express for a reason. Outstanding.

Do not miss out a chance to see either of these bands live.