Lauded in the UK as this generation’s answer to the Beatles, yet criminally ignored on this side of the Atlantic, the Arctic Monkeys have faced more of a challenge appealing to American taste despite conquering the British public’s admiration within a matter of months.
But you wouldn’t be able to tell that from their performance on September 5 at the Rumsley Playfield, also known as the Central Park Summerstage. These indie virtuosos, who are barely of drinking age, began their new U.S. tour by playing songs from their triple platinum-selling debut and their equally successful follow-up to throngs of fans that sang along with every lyric. It felt more like a Sheffield pub than New York City’s Central Park as fans sang in perfect Northern accents that would convince any unsuspecting attendee that they were lost in a crowd of lifelong Yorkshire residents.
Highlights of the evening included recent single “Fluorescent Adolescent,” the splendidly performed, surf-guitar number “Do Me a Favour,” electric second-album opener “Brianstorm,” stand-alone single “Leave Before the Lights Come On,” and the classic number 1 hit, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.” But the definitive moment of the evening, hands down, goes to Sheffield’s ode to the seedy underworld, “When the Sun Goes Down.” Front man Alex Turner’s pithy phrase-turning tale of a streetwalker resounded through the Central Park Summerstage just as the sun set over Manhattan.
Critics may claim that the Arctic Monkeys are nothing more than the latest in a line of over-hyped British bands whose mediocrity is confused for greatness, but the audience, populated by both old and young, pasty-faced sober teenagers and intoxicated twentysomethings, would disagree. This generation needs its own Beatles, Ramones and Nirvana, and the genius of this band fills that void.
The question that many in attendance were wondering was whether or not the band will earn major popularity in the U.S. Sadly, this band’s appeal is not reaching many Americans, as their poetic use of Northern English colloquialisms has left many puzzled by what a “Mardy Bum” or “Teddy Picker” could possibly mean. Americans tend to prefer catchiness over substance, which is why the number one song of the summer repeats the meaningless phrase “ella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh” in its chorus, but for a band that combines brilliant melodies with impressive lyrics, look no further than the four English blokes known as the Arctic Monkeys.