Concert Review: Arctic Monkeys @ Kool Haus, Toronto, Ontario (with full setlist)
Arctic Monkeys honoured Toronto by kicking off their North American tour in this fine city. Like Glastonbury, if Toronto is good enough for the Rolling Stones, it’s good enough for the Arctic Monkeys. The band are riding a high, after yet again getting nominated for the Mercury Prize for Best British and Irish album, for their outstanding new album, AM. I also had a banner week, as I managed to realize that I need to unplug the toaster before going at my Ego Waffle with a fork and knife, so we both clearly have reason to celebrate. And celebrate we did.
Arctic Monkeys played their usual Toronto venue – Kool Haus – after last rolling through town as opening act for The Black Keys (albeit not at the Kool Haus). Although usually a sold out show at Kool Haus, this time around the band sold out within days of tickets going on sale, with tickets going on Stub Hub for as much as $200 each (over 4 times the face value). So who the fuck’s Arctic Monkeys? And how did they do last night? Spoiler alert: very, very well.
The Sheffield foursome, consisting of singer Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O’Malley, and Matt Helders, managed to get Torontonians to stop stalking Hollywood stars (well, I stopped for a bit) and to rock out and dance to an eclectic mix of tracks spanning the band’s five album discography – all released in a 7.5 year span. The band does everything at breakneck speed, as they whipped through 19 songs from their catalogue in about an hour and twenty minutes.
The band continued their ever evolving look, with Alex Turner adopting an Elvis meets Hamburg-era John Lennon look, and all but drummer Matt Helders wearing dapper suits. Helders was actually wearing a shirt that said “Why’d You Only Ever Call Me When You’re High?”, which he likely took from the merch table where they sold the same shirts.
Arctic Monkeys hit the stage just after 9, with the numbers 0114 taped to their drumkit, a nod to the Sheffield area code. The stage was shroud in darkness, with spotlights flooding the stage before their entrance.
The band kicked things off on a high note, playing Do I Wanna Know?, which the crowd definitely let the band know is a bonafide hit. They clapped along feverishly, and there was a buzz in the air as they played it. The crowd didn’t let up throughout the tune, and Helders added some extra drum fills towards the end of it.
There was a blistering start to Brianstorm, with the band basking in red lights, which I’m told indicates doors are secure. The odd British concert habit of tossing beers in the crowd was prevalent during this second song, and I’m still baffled why you’d chuck a $10 beer. Piss bombs, sure, but beers?
Turner addressed the crowd for the first time, saying “Welcome. Are you feeling good everyone? Now might be a good time to get on your dancing shoes!”
Oddly, they didn’t play Dancing Shoes next.
Dancing Shoes had to follow with a lead in like that, and it earned a giant singalong. There was also the first crowd surfer of the night, which seemed to take longer than I would’ve bet.
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair followed, and had some nice feedback prior to the musical punch at the end. Turner had some fun, doing actions for king fu fighting and the macarena as he sung those lyrics.
“This one is called Teddy Picker – get loud” and the people obliged, cheering like it was a number one hit.
Without a break from Teddy Picker, the band ran into Crying Lightning, with random confetti falling from the pipes and ceiling at Kool Haus, caked on from concerts past. Can Kool Haus clean that shit?!
The band played another new track from UK #1 album, AM (the band’s 5th consecutive number 1 in the UK) – Snap Out of It. The ever present fist pumps and claps from the crowd became snaps. Clever switch, folks!
Turner then told us Matt was going to sing this next one, as the band launched into the lead single from Suck It and See, which is Brick by Brick. The treacle-slow and fast parts came off well, as did the vocal interplay between Alex and Matt.
Turner then said something that I hadn’t noticed – “I’ve got so many song about bricks Toronto. Here’s another one.” The band then launched into the other brick-themed song – Old Yellow Bricks. The track was chaotic and noisy but came off great.
The thumping Dr. Dre-esque intro of Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? followed, but unfortunately the vocals were slightly drowned out by the guitar line and were quiet (PHM reviewer Millar agrees!), so the impact of the track wasn’t the same. Interestingly, there were lots of people on shoulders during this track.
Alex Turner put away his instrument for Arabella, and replaced his axe with actions and dance moves instead. Pretty Visitors followed, with Turner not grabbing a guitar until the very end. Alex did some comedic ad libbing, saying “all the pretty visitors came and raised their arms – and don’t forget the hips, folks!”
The band absolutely ripped through early classic I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, re-energizing the crowd.
The fragile and gentle Cornerstone was next, with Turner playing an acoustic guitar, joined by a big vocal presence from the crowd (except me – you’re welcome).
A slower version of Suck It and See followed, before set closer R U Mine?, with Alex teasing the crowd by saying “I am yours. The question is – are you mine?” The band walked off the stage after pumping out 16 songs in an hour, with guitar feedback ringing through the speakers.
The crowd was surprisingly good for a ‘Toronto crowd’ (music fans will know what I mean), even coming up with a good clap and cheer before the encore.
The most amazing thing about the regular set? The fact that the band made it through an hour with their full suits on! Alex and bassist Nick O’Malley ditched the suit jackets and the band kicked off the encore with the slow, falsetto-backed track One for the Road.
The band either fucked up the beginning of the next track or gave everyone a quick preview to build anticipation, playing the lyrically clever Fluorescent Adolescent. As he had done throughout the set, Helders continued to do little tricks with his drum sticks. The most impressive was when he threw a drum stick on the cymbal, it stalled and sat there while he played out the rest of the bar with one bar, then he grabbed it back to continue playing with two hands. And here I can barely tie my damn shoes.
The final song of the night was sophomore album closer, 505. It was a slower version until the frantic, powerful ending.
The band played 80 minutes, playing almost a third of their catalogue. The setlist showed the evolution of the band, as it left me wanting more, and also showed they can distance themselves from their (only 7 year old) classic first album, which only had 2 songs played from it. The crowd were up for it from the first note, and the band repaid them with a very solid, career spanning set. Hopefully the band come back to 416 before going back to 0114 (or 505).
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PHM Rating for Arctic Monkeys: 8.5 out of 10
Setlist for Arctic Monkeys @ Kool Haus, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – September 15, 2013
1 – Do I Wanna Know?
2 – Brianstorm
3 – Dancing Shoes
4 – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
5 – Teddy Picker
6 – Crying Lightning
7 – Snap Out of It
8 – Brick by Brick
9 – Old Yellow Bricks
10 – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
11 – Arabella
12 – Pretty Visitors
13 – I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
14 – Cornerstone
15 – Suck It and See
16 – R U Mine?
17 – One for the Road
18 – Fluorescent Adolescent
19 – 505