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Monday, May 30, 2011

Arctic Monkeys @ The Rave

May 27, 2011

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Though the considerable buzz that initially surrounded them has worn off somewhat, that shouldn't be taken as an indication that the Arctic Monkeys' moment has come and gone. Instead, they seem to have stepped outside of the endless cycle of hype and backlash that characterizes the modern music machine (especially in the United Kingdom), generating an uncommon level of consensus on the quality of their music that pre-empts hyperbole and sensational stories. Their three rock-solid studio albums (a fourth, bearing the unfortunate title Suck It and See, is due out next week) comfortably straddle the divides between smart and snotty, tuneful and forceful, and have found success with fans and critics alike. In short, they've been accepted by the rock world at large, proved themselves worthy of fandom and, to some extent, canonization, so there's really no need to spill much ink on screeds, whether of praise or condemnation.

The degree to which the Arctic Monkeys have become accepted was more than evident by the throngs of people crammed into The Rave, many of who seemed jittery with enthusiasm before the band ever took the stage. When they finally emerged, it was without an ounce of pretense or fuss, with the group ripping directly into a set that heavily favored the bombastic rockers that turned their first two albums, 2006's Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not and 2007's Favourite Worst Nightmare, into record-breaking sellers. The crowd's approval was not only self-evident, but startlingly sustained. There did not seem to be a single moment throughout the whole show where fists and smartphones (and, amusingly, some guy's crutches) weren't being thrust into the air. Even when the band changed gears to spotlight their more recent, down-tempo efforts, which didn't happen more than once or twice the entire night, it inspired no change in the crowd's intensity level.

And, happily, the band was able to reciprocate—for all the ferocity with which the group attacked their tunes, The Rave's sound crew was able to deliver it crisply as well as loudly. It's a bit of an old saw in rock 'n' roll to thank the crowd for the energy they're putting into your show, but here it came off not as a cliché piece of stage banter, but as simply acknowledging a readily observable phenomenon. At this point it would seem that anything journalists or critics have to say is somewhat irrelevant (and isn't it always?). It's not hype or think pieces that make fans go nuts; it's shows like this.