Arctic Monkeys

SXSW live shot

Arctic Monkeys

La Zona Rosa, Friday, March 17

How good was the SXSW debut of the Artic Monkeys? Perhaps only as good as you'd allow yourself to think they were. With these Sheffield teens arriving in town with the biggest-selling debut in British rock history, it was both too easy to expect too much and too early to call bullshit for the sake of being the first to call bullshit. What we got was actually fairly hard not to love: a live show with all the incongruous hallmarks of the album – precision/sloppiness, angst/wit, comedy/drama. Add crankiness/cockiness and you've got frontman Alex Turner, who followed a childish anti-photographer tantrum with a midset declaration that wasn't as cheeky as it should have been: "I know. We're good, right?" Right. Perhaps because this was their one and only SXSW appearance, they seemed well-rested, well-rehearsed, and ridiculously tight, with rhythms that stopped on dimes and precariously stacked bridges and choruses that constantly seemed on the verge of collapsing onto each other, yet never did. While it's easy to argue that much of their 55 minutes sounded like one giant song, the hits-to-be glistened, from a blitzkriegish run though "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" to a funky "Fake Tales of San Francisco," featuring extra guitarwork from special guest Keith Murray of We Are Scientists. The show-closing Trail of Dead-style trashing of the rented backline was superfluous since Turner & Co.'s start-to-finish swagger was more refreshing than offensive. So again, how good was the SXSW debut of the Artic Monkeys? No less powerful than the hype.

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