Friday, 4 July 2014

White Denim and Arctic Monkeys @ Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, 21/06/2014

Never in my life have I seen more people wearing leather jackets, winged eye-liner, red lipstick, and high-waisted shorts all in one day. Only one thing could have brought on this multitude of sexy outfits to the huge Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, and that one thing is the Arctic Monkeys. Dripping with Sheffield swagger, the widely-popular foursome played to thousands of fans in Toronto on the first official day of summer, and if you ask me, there is no better way to start off the season than with the assistance of an epic band playing an epic show.

 Analysing the growth in popularity of the Monkeys in North America within the past two years is astounding. Back in 2012, the boys were playing this same venue, but they were only the opening band for The Black Keys. Last September, the band played the Kool Haus in Toronto to promote their latest album, which was a much smaller, more intimate venue. But this time around, the Monkeys had their own headlining show at a massive venue. Not only this, but the band managed to hypothetically blow the roof off of the place with what was the most spectacular live show I have ever witnessed. To top it all off, there was even a guy dressed up as the AM front man Alex Turner, rocking his iconic boots, dark jeans complete with a chain, silk button up shirt, leather jacket, and Turner's signature quiff. If this sky-rocketing growth that results in people dressing up as you does not indicate true success, I do not know what does. 

Standing in the huge, intimidating shadow of the Arctic Monkeys were the Texan-natives known as White Denim.The foursome sauntered onto the stage in their plaid button-ups, old t-shirts, and baseball caps, sporting getups that stood out in stark contrast to the sea of people before them wearing black, black, and more black. Surprisingly, the less well-known group held their own against the monster that is the Amphitheatre, refusing to get swallowed up by its intimidating size. They played a solid 45-minute set, producing a sound that almost mimicked the bluesy style that is pulled off so flawlessly by The Black Keys. However, as I find with most opening bands, the crowd did not really get too into White Denim's sound, as most people remained seated the entire time, absent-mindedly munching on pizza. However, White Denim did make a couple new fans in the audience, as the man seated beside me asked me who they were as he excitedly texted a friend about them. 

One thing I have to say about White Denim is that the most entertaining thing about their entire set was their facial expressions. Whether it was the scowls poking out from unruly beards or the full-on pouts, their animated faces were truly amusing. But, the music was not half-bad either.

After about a half hour of painful waiting, it was time for the Arctic Monkeys to arrive. It seemed as if the sun set as soon as the rock stars stepped onto the stage, really adding to their epic entrance. They strutted on stage in darkness, shrouded by fog and smoke, using the album art for AM as a backdrop for their performance. Wordlessly, the band launched into the intro of "Do I Wanna Know?", the sexy lead single from AM. As soon as the "step-clap" rhythm of the song began, it was greeted by a chorus of cheers and screams as people began to move in time to the track. Opening their set with "Do I Wanna Know?" was undeniably a great decision, seeing that it satisfied both long-term Arctic Monkeys fans, along with newcomers.

Following "Do I Wanna Know?" was "Snap Out of It", another hit off of AM that the band recently released a video for. The Arctic Monkeys continued their AM-streak by opting to play crowd favourite "Arabella" next, in which Alex Turner broke out all of his slightly embarrassing, magnificent dance moves. Just before the guitar solo of the sexy track hit, Turner scrambled to retrieve his guitar, leading to a bad ass Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" instrumental interlude in the meantime. But, as soon as Turner had his guitar in hand, it was back to ripping Arctic Monkeys material as he absolutely nailed the solo.

It was around this time that, in true Alex Turner fashion, the Sheffield singer took the time to look at the audience before sauntering up to the microphone and asking "did you miss me?" in a smug, smooth tone. This question received a very clear answer, as every member in the crowd began screaming as loud as they possibly could. Throughout the night, Turner also elected to call all of us in the crowd 'Ontarionians' in his Sheffield accent, and whoever told him that this was a proper term deserves a high five.

Breaking the string of AM tracks, the Monkeys went back in time a couple years and played "Brianstorm", the brilliant opening track on the band's second album. This song got an excellent response from the crowd, probably due to the fact that the guitar riffs in this song are absolutely amazing, sounding even better live than on the album. "Brianstorm" flowed effortlessly into the Monkeys' next song of the night, which was head-banger "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" off of Suck it and See. During this track, Alex Turner dropped an F-bomb, singing with his smooth, black velvet voice "don't sit down 'cause I've moved your f*cking chair", thus pleasing everyone in the crowd.

Next up was "Dancing Shoes", an old time favourite off of the band's debut album. This jam got everyone dancing and singing back every word. Following such a nostalgic treasure was "Library Pictures", another song off of Suck it and See, which pleased the die-hard Monkeys fans in the crowd.

The foursome opted to play a song from their darker, gloomy third album next. Choosing to play "Crying Lightning", it received cheers from several thousand fans in response as Turner brought out his aggression for the second verse. 

Reverting back to playing hits off of AM, the band broke out "Knee Socks", a crowd favourite (I saw several people wearing knee socks to show their support) and potential hit for the Monkeys. Their AM-themed backdrop lit up in time to the song, which added to the overall enjoyment of the performance. For the purpose of a better live show, the Sheffield rockers extended the outro of "Knee Socks" in a way so that it would flow perfectly into "My Propeller", a song off of their third album that the Arctic Monkeys have not played live since 2010. This was a special moment for everyone in the crowd, seeing as it is a rare occasion for the Monkeys to break this song out of its box, blow the dust off of it, and play it again after four years of silence. 

"I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" came next, meaning that it was time for Alex Turner to break out his signature "laaadies!" before starting the debut album favourite. Whether Turner yelled "ladies" this time around or not before the song is a mystery to me. He yelled something, but no one was quite sure what it was. That slight confusion aside, the band executed the nostalgic tune flawlessly.

 According to the Arctic Monkeys, it was time to slow the show down for three tracks. The slowdown started with AM's passionate tune, titled "Fireside", which gave a lot of fans a little bit of time to breathe and relax. Next came "No. 1 Party Anthem", a tearjerker off of AM, so this is the moment where people broke out their phones and their lighters, swaying in time as Turner, now playing an acoustic guitar, crooned the beautiful tune in front of us. This moment was truly stunning as thousands of little white lights appeared from all sides of the venue, mimicking the stars in the sky that many crowd members could not see because of the huge roof of the Amphitheatre. 

After that gorgeous spectacle came "Suck it and See", a "love song for the ladies", according to Alex Turner. This statement was met by a magnitude of girls screaming. The Arctic Monkeys followed that single off of Suck it and See with another single off of AM, playing the slightly humorous fan favourite "Why'd you Only Call me When You're High?". Each member in the audience sang the words to this one, and it was without a doubt one of the many highlights of the night.

 To end the show, the Monkeys played two popular tracks off of their second album, starting with the cheeky "Fluorescent Adolescent", largely pleasing the crowd. They ended with the much slower "505", which only made the crowd crave more. When the foursome exited the stage, they already knew that they would be called back for the encore within a manner of seconds. They made the crowd wait for a couple of minutes though, just to drive everyone slightly crazier.

By the time the band re-entered for an AM-centred encore, Turner looked as if he wanted to say something, but he would have been drowned out by the manic cheers and screams. So, he told the crowd to just "get it all out of your system", which we did, just in time for the Monkeys to start "One for the Road", another crowd favourite that the majority of the audience sang along to. The boys decided to slow down the show one more time with "I Wanna be Yours", setting a dreamlike mood with the help of a disco ball that scattered bits of shattered light throughout the venue. They ended the entire show with "R U Mine?", driving the crowd into a wild, dancing frenzy full of waving arms and head-banging. They extended the ending just a bit, not wanting to leave all of us 'Ontarionians' high and dry. It was a very sad moment when fans realized that the show was over, and as Alex Turner walked off and out of our lives forever, he blew kisses that were returned by a huge portion of the audience.

The Arctic Monkeys have been around for years now, but they are still improving as a band and steadily becoming more popular. They can work the stage like no other band I have ever seen, resulting in the best concert I have ever witnessed in my entire life. I can hardly wait to see what these four talented men will do next, because I just know that they have some aces up their sleeves. 

Personal Highlight: Definitely Alex Turner's dance moves and relevant hand gestures. He is such a cool guy, so it is simply amazing to watch him dance like a dork; it just makes him more lovable.