It was relevant how, in the midst of a Polar Vortex, the Arctic Monkeys would stage their very first headlining concert at the world's most famous arena. After 12 years as a band, Sheffield, England's Arctic Monkeys have had the fastest selling-debut album in British music history with their 2006 classic, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I Am Not, won the Mercury Prize in 2006, had a variety of number one singles on the British charts and they headlined Glastonbury last year.
They have been praised by critics the world over, yet, it seems that all their biggest accolades come from their mother land. They have surprisingly never headlined any U.S. music festivals, and they have never won a Grammy. Just last month they finally topped the Billboard alternative chart for the first time ever with their single, "Do I Wanna Know?" They have also only played Madison Square Garden before as openers for The Black Keys two years ago. Now, months after the release of their fifth and fantastic album, AM, things seem to be picking up states-side for the Monkeys as they celebrate with their largest North American headlining gig to date at Madison Square Garden.
Just after 9:15 p.m. on Saturday night, the houselights dimmed and a guitar echoed off stage. The Arctic Monkeys confidently walked on stage to thunderous applause and deafening screams as they collected their instruments, took their final sips of water or alcohol and hit the opening strumming chords of AM's opening track, "Do I Wanna Know?" It was then "Brianstorm," and "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," that created a triple whammy for the crowd.
Singer Alex Turner who looked like a cross between a young Johnny Cash and Danzig guitarist, Doyle, with his hair, addressed the crowd, "New York City! How are you? It is nice to be back and be here at Madison Square Garden," before they jumped into "Snap Out of It." With a giant lighting grid behind them that created the letters "A" and "M" they signified the album title and, of course, the initials of the band. They were dropping subtle references about their career in their setlist with the the sprinkling of songs like "Crying Lightning," "Dancing Shoes," "Pretty Visitors," "Florissant Adolescent."
In the AM-heavy setlist, they left out a majority of songs from 2011's flawless Suck It and See, and concert favorites like "The Sun Goes Down," "Mardy Bum," and "Teddy Picker." It shows that this band is evolving far beyond the songs that have gained them acclaim in their live concerts. With that being said, they still snuck in fan favorites like "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," and "Dancing Shoes," to reflect on where they came from and energize the crowd.
Headlining Madison Square Garden is a big deal for anyone, whether you are the Arctic Monkeys, or Garden-resident, Billy Joel, so many artists make playing this arena extra special. Before closing their main set, Arctic Monkeys brought out fellow Brit, Miles Kane, to lend his guitar work to the closing number "505." Kane, who has a side-project with Turner called The Last Shadow Puppets, has rarely appeared on stage with him since their 2008 tour. They showcased a special moment to longtime fans of the band. After 75 minutes on stage, they retreated to the wings with fans chanting for an encore.
After a few minutes, the band re-emerged, ready to rock again. Turner spoke to the crowd, "It is almost 50 years to the day since Ed Sullivan brought The Beatles to America and had them play on his show." With the help of Kane, they played a very beautiful and reworked rendition of "All My Loving." They jumped into "One For The Road," and then closing with "R U Mine," a song that made it's live debut at MSG in March 2012 when they opened for The Black Keys. This was a near poetic and perfect way to end the night. After all of these years rising in the United States, the Arctic Monkeys have made it, and selling out Madison Square Garden is proof of their deserving achievement.