ACL Live Review: Arctic Monkeys

New album falls flat, but the UK rockers rise to the occasion

Arctic Monkeys’ brilliant but divisive sixth studio album, this year’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, set up their fourth ACL Fest appearance on Sunday and begged the question whether the intimate, lounge-y concept album would translate across a festival field or even mesh with their previous arena-rocked hits.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

The answer at their headlining set on the Honda stage proved a mixed bag. Ultimately, the new material largely failed to connect no matter how compelling. Yet, the group’s familiar explosiveness revved the crowd to a proper first weekend closeout.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, with its disaffected lunar cabaret schtick, delivers deliberately difficult fare, asking fans to follow Alex Turner’s crooning ballads as he plays Ziggy Stardust stuck in an extraterrestrial piano bar. That’s a long trip to make from the thumping skuzz and hard dance-floor bangers from 2013’s AM, and knowingly, the Sheffield UK sextet leaned heavily on that previous outing, with seven of the set’s 21 songs served from that platter over a 90-minute span.

Exception to the new material was opener “Four Out of Five,” the lead single dishing deep groove and followed immediately by the pummel of “Brianstorm” from 2007’s frenetic Favourite Worst Nightmare. Also notable was how Turner torqued the set to align older songs with the five new tunes he offered up, especially in his shift to keyboards for the languid “505” and the title track to Tranquility before “Do Me a Favour” and guitar ripper “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” brought the crowd back to an uproar.

That coincided with the point at which Travis Scott’s earth-rattling bass blast from down the Zilker Park hill upturned the Monkeys, crushing the slow sway of “The Ultracheese.” The punk barrage of “Pretty Visitors” punched back, but suave closer “Arabella” lost the fight and seemed to threaten any encore.

The band’s short, three-song return triumphed, however, new “Star Treatment” giving way to the debut LP’s frantic “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and the show closing out with AM’s audience blow-up “R U Mine?” The new platter might not play well for the live festival set, but Arctic Monkeys have enough firepower to provide ample air cover.

Check out our daily ACL coverage with previews, reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys Give Cedar Park Center the F Sharp
Arctic Monkeys Give Cedar Park Center the F Sharp
UK rockers remain twisted and deranged

Nina Hernandez, Oct. 29, 2014

ACL Live Shot: Arctic Monkeys
ACL Live Shot: Arctic Monkeys
UK rockers gain density in feel-good hits

Tim Stegall, Oct. 5, 2013

More by Doug Freeman
ACL Live Review: Charley Crockett
Live Shot: Charley Crockett
Austin crooner pulls off Doug Sahm-like blend of country-soul

Oct. 14, 2018

ACL Fest Interview: Charley Crockett
ACL Fest Interview: Charley Crockett
Local country-soul man samples his wares on the BMI stage

Oct. 12, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Arctic Monkeys, ACL Fest 2018, ACL Music Fest, Alex Turner, David Bowie, Travis Scott

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle