A mosh pit at Royal Albert Hall -- the filigreed, velvet-draped London theater with exceptional acoustics and a vibe as regal as its name -- isn’t exactly a commonplace occurrence, but Arctic Monkeys fans were happy to break from the norm and douse the dignified floorboards the establishment with sweat, spit and beer on Thursday night (June 7).
Weeks after the drop their first album in five years, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and a brief American tour in support it, the Sheffield quartet returned to one England’s most hallowed halls to play a benefit for War Child, the nonprit organization aiding children in conflict-afflicted countries.
The homecoming was a triumph and a celebration, both for the cause supported and the circumstances surrounding the concert itself. It served the live debut for some Tranquility Base’s material for their fans at home and one Arctic Monkeys’ sparse U.K. gigs for the foreseeable future, as this will be their only outing in England through the fall. That, and Arctic Monkeys haven’t headlined Royal Albert Hall -- a bucket list stage for English talent, and double that for those who saw Bob Dylan’s Don’t Look Back and vowed to look up to those balconies one day -- since they marked the release Humbug in 2009. The champagne hue the velvet curtain behind them was appropriate, considering.
To say they simply filled every seat, balcony and square centimeter floorspace Royal Albert Hall for the occasion doesn’t do it justice, as the room was heaving with elation and camaraderie. From the shadows the top balcony tier to the barricade up front, fans were hanging over railings, hurling benign fists and raised glasses into the aisles for each chorus and turning to the friends and strangers beside them, as eager to sing along with frontman Alex Turner as they were to hear him.
Turner matched their enthusiasm, slinking through the mellow strains Tranquility Base tunes “Four Out Five,” “Star Treatment” and its title track with lounge lizard moves to match before relishing in the more mischievous selections from their catalog. The core four members were joined by back-up on keys and percussion for some the new stuff, which enabled Turner to free his hands from the neck his own instrument for a spell and focus entirely on connecting with the audience. He seemed to enjoy playing through the Tranquility Base songs the most, breaking into a dance worthy the Goblin King as they rolled into “She Looks Like Fun” and hitting a meditative stride as he narrated his way through album opener “Star Treatment.”
The languid Tranquility Base may dete in tone and execution from the scrappier, side-eyed aesthetic its predecessor, 2013’s AM, and the albums that came before it, but the crowd matched Turner note for note, though older favorites “Brianstorm,” “Do Me A Favour” and “Crying Lightning” elicited roaring approval. AM smash single “Do I Wanna Know?” inspired a sing-along so intense that the audience bellowed its melody if they were filling the space a stadium. You know how college football crowds have adopted the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” to rev up the stands in between plays? “Do I Wanna Know?” had the same effect at Royal Albert Hall and drowned out Turner’s opening guitar lick, which he didn’t seem to mind.
“From the Ritz to the Rubble” incited the first mosh pit the evening, complete with the launch at least four pints into the air, and “505” incited the first strip-down, as a shirt made its way from the back a die-hard landed squarely on Turner’s free hand during the Favourite Worst Nightmare cut.
By the time definitive, career-launching hit “I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor” came around, the ecstatic bouncing thousands people sent such intense reverberations through the floor that the foundation the hall itself seemed to be swelling. Royal Albert Hall will stand to see another show, but there was a good two-minute stretch there where over 5,000 Arctic Monkey devotees nearly put its storied structure to the test -- and all in the name love for their favorite lads.
Arctic Monkeys' Royal Albert Hall Setlist
1. “Four out Five” 2. “Brianstorm” 3. “Crying Lightning” 4. “Do I Wanna Know?” 5. “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” 6. “505” 7. “One Point Perspective” 8. “Do Me A Favour” 9. “Cornerstone” 10. “Knee Socks” 11. “Arabella” 12. “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” 13. “She Looks Like Fun" 14. “From the Ritz to the Rubble” 15. “Pretty Visitors” 16. “Don’t Sit Down” 17. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
(Encore) 18. “Star Treatment” 19. “The View from the Afternoon” 20. “R U Mine?”