You read the clips – created by NME and a pile of others – explaining and editorializing how incredible Arctic Monkeys are. But hear it for yourself. See it. That’s how we were convinced.
They headlined the radio-sponsored Big Snow Show in Milwaukee last month to a sold out crowd of frozen boys and girls who devoured those guys and their tunes without shame. They haven’t switched up the setlist dramatically this tour, but listen – kicking things off with Do I Wanna Know? is perfect. It’s slow, heavy, and lets the crowd take it in. It’s made even better by immediately transitioning into Brianstorm, its complete opposite. It’s like ice cream with hot apple pie. And although this was a shorter set than the ones they’d played the two previous nights, the energy made up for it: from the crowd and from us.
You see, this was the gig that turned our travels into The Winter Road Trip. This was the gig that no one writing these reviews was meant to attend. The logistics were idiotic: From Tulsa, where the trip began, to Milwaukee? In the winter? A week after a clusterfuck winter storm had barely left the Midwest? Were we even going to be alive by the end of it if it?
It was almost 800 miles and 12 hours, but we –unaware of Midwestern geography, apparently – thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. So after every single devil’s advocate questioning was shut down, we had our in. Dumb idea or not, we were officially going.
After a sunny but freezing experience in Columbia the day before, we were greeted by Milwaukee’s slick roads and dark skies. We had made it this far, though, and Arctic Monkeys were in town. By the time Teri, Barbara, Naomi and I rolled into Milwaukee, we were barely clean (thanks to a roach motel) and barely awake (thanks to Arctic Monkeys). And for those of us on this adventure, there was a strange mix of eagerness and sadness in the air, knowing that this was to be the last gig of the road trip.
Excuse the Wisconsin cheese, but If You Were There, Beware. It always gets to me; seeing everyone else enjoy them as much as I do. And after 11 Arctic Monkeys gigs, I can confirm the Milwaukee crowd was a crazy one. From the moment we stood in line, you could tell this was going to be intense. Because who willingly stands in line enduring 28° weather? Crazy people.
As crazy as it was, at times it felt like the crowd bit off more than it could chew. Barbara and I had the opportunity to be in front of Nick, and we spent a portion of the show seeing piles of guys and girls give up and ask for a lift up so they could make their way out of the crowd with the help of security. For a lot of people, it was too much to handle, standing in the middle of all of that. A young girl admitted she’d paid a stranger an extra $40 to move up to the front, and even she had to give up halfway through the set. The front felt extremely compressed, and moshing was at high levels. But when Arctic Monkeys start the chords of Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair, and Alex Turner finishes that first verse, the song is practically begging you to go nuts.
They’re better than ever before, Arctic Monkeys. After three consecutive days of listening to them from the front row, you could see that they really do acknowledge their crowd. Alex has discovered he has hips and Jamie has shown everyone he was meant to be a great guitar player. Together along with Matt and Nick, they have proven they can hold you in the palm of their hands. This is a band that put perfection into each song on the setlist that night, even though it was an abbreviated set.
Their sound has come a long way, but they still went into classics like Dancing Shoes and I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor without weirdness. If you’re a fan of this band, surely this is a moment of pride. Appreciation was shown in a few sing-alongs (505 comes to mind) and yes, dangerous jumping and hair flying was also on display (Pretty Visitors!). It was during R U Mine? when the entire mass of people joined in, however. At that moment, it was difficult not to feel the 3,500 bodies behind you.
We can only hope that one or two of those bodies seeing Arctic Monkeys for the first time left the The Rave/Eagles Ballroom with a blown mind and a need to devour their music.
For us, the night ended with snow and real food. As we said goodbye to friends the following morning, Barbara, Teri, Naomi and I really couldn’t believe we had to end it. Arctic Monkeys were off to Kansas City, Missouri, and we began the trek back to Oklahoma. We couldn’t help but to replay the whole trip with Arctic Monkeys as background music. I think it was during You’re So Dark – the official anthem of the trip – that something happened…
“You know, Kansas City is only four hours away from Tulsa,” I heard Teri mention.
We were only seven hours away from a proper shower.