The last time Arctic Monkeys played Coachella, it was 2007 and they were just coming off their sophomore album, Favourite Worst Nightmare. Back then, they were somewhat of a buzz band out of England that hadn’t had much notoriety Stateside.
Thing have certainly changed.
On the heels of a critically- and commercially-successful fourth album, 2011’s Suck It and See, the band set the table for British stalwarts Pulp and the headlining Black Keys Friday night at the Indio, Calif., fairgrounds.
As the sun went down in the desert, AM tore through a 13-song set that included a few dancefloor-ready cuts from the past and some of their heaviest work to date.
At the time of that first Coachella performance, front man Alex Turner was only 21, but now the talented showman is a matured 26-year-old regularly sporting a leather jacket and a pompadour.
The confidence shows as he snarls across the stage, incorporates his bandmates and generally abuses his guitar.
Perhaps he’s taken a page from the Keys’ Dan Auerbach, as Arctic Monkeys are in the midst of a worldwide tour with the Black Keys.
Auerbach’s affect on Turner is debatable, but it is likely that the U.S. exposure played a part in the enthusiastic reaction at Coachella.
He certainly didn’t have to sell.
“You’re going to love this shot,” he said before the thundering bass line from “Evil Twin” kicked in. “Get on it!”
Arctic Monkeys drew from their 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, I’m Not, with “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor,” The View From the Afternoon” and “Still Take Out Home.” All were met with approval.
“Teddy Pickers,” “This House Is a Circus” and “Florescent Adolescent” were played off 2007’s Worst Nightmare.
And Humbug (2009) chipped in “Pretty Visitors” and “Crying Lightning.”
The highlight, however, was seeing material off Suck It and See live.
“Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” has a sinister vibe to it with a few hooks to get it stuck in your head.
And the latest release from AM, the B-side “R U Mine” is a drum-and-bass song that was hastily recorded during a couple of days off in their native Sheffield, England.
Live, it is a masterpiece, with drummer Matt Helders laying waste to his kit with thunderous crashes and Turner’s snarl coming through with every line.
While Arctic Monkeys might not think of Coachella being a big step in their career as musicians, for those that hadn’t seen them live before, it had to have been huge.