What is a band to do when they've reached festival headliner status? If you're Arctic Monkeys, you throw them a curveball. Not that curveballs are anything new for the band - listen to their debut album Whatever They Say I Am, That’s What I'm Not, and then listen to AM. Now listen to AM and then their latest album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. The band has evolved over time, but with no singles leading up to their most recent record, nobody had any idea that they would be getting a space lounge piano-pop album. But as unusual as lines like "What do you mean you haven't seen Blade Runner?" can be, it still didn't stop them from reaching #1 album status in the UK for the sixth time in a row and playing two nights at The Anthem.
First, the new. Tranquility Base cuts like the eponymous track and “Star Treatment” were given the seven-piece live band treatment, fleshing out the band's new sound with extra layers of percussion and keys, including from Turner for a few songs. For his part, Turner still looks and acts the part of lounge crooner, even with the new buzz cut he's sporting. As he slinked around without a guitar to weigh him down, he pointed towards fans in the crowd, which almost always resulted in an inordinate amount of squealing. Not many people can ham it up for the masses quite like Turner can, that’s for sure.
But you can't keep a guitar off Turner for long. Deep down, past the slow, nuanced songs that the band has been crafting the last few years, the group still has the fire that brought them into the conversation back in 2006. Alternating between slow-burners like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” and barn-burners like “Brianstorm,” the group took the DC audience for a ride. Turner and guitarist Jamie Cook are powder kegs on songs like “Pretty Visitors,” and “Brianstorm” shows drummer Matt Helders’s adept ability to set the frenetic pace for the band. They closed the set with a rousing rendition of “R U Mine?” that was so raucous that they decided to keep the energy levels high by playing the ending twice. Even with a left-turn album like Tranquility Base, Arctic Monkeys are a very well-polished live band at this point and have stated their case to remain standing amongst giants in the music world.
Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino is available now through Domino Records.
Opening for Arctic Monkeys was Los Angeles-based band Mini Mansions, who is gearing up to release their next EP Works Every Time. Their music has a slick, mysterious, and poppy sheen to it, especially the title track from their upcoming EP. Older songs like “Mirror Mountain” showed how memorably rowdy the colorfully-dressed band could get when they turn up the guitars and falsetto harmonies. Works Every Time will be released through Fiction Records.