"Anticipation has the habit to set you up? / For disappointment in evening entertainment but?/ Tonight there’ll be some love / Tonight there’ll be a rawkus, regardless of what’s gone before"
-View From the Afternoon
Sitting in bar half a block from the Tabernacle, a former church turned music venue in Atlanta’s downtown Five Points district, I was trying to avoid being outside.
I looked out the window to where I was supposed to be—on the opposite sidewalk, standing in line for a sold-out show to see the Sheffield, England’s Arctic Monkeys, a band whose debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, had been released in the U.K. earlier this year, and sold more than 350,000 copies its first week, the fastest-selling debut in British history.
The band was currently in the middle of a North American tour, which to no real surprise had quickly sold out. A twenty-something sitting to my right noticed me staring and started talking about the show. It turned out he’d been following the band along their tour, catching one of the earliest performances back in Tempe, Ariz. “No encore,” he said. “They blitz the place and get out.”
He continued to talk about the group and how he couldn’t stop listening to their record, but after awhile I became puzzled with his unwavering devotion to a bunch of kids who still lived with their parents. For now I pushed my questions aside and looked back towards the window.
The line was now gone. The doors had been opened.
Telling the man next to me that I hoped he’d enjoy the show, I made my way down the street.
“One look sends it coursing through the veins oh how the feeling races / Back up to their brains to form expressions on there stupid faces? / They don't want to say hello / Like I want to say hello”
-You Probably Couldn’t See For the Lights But You Were Staring Straight at Me
The Tabernacle, a modest brick building with a number of large double doors taking up the greater part of its façade, sits just a few blocks from the mammoth trifecta that is the southern city’s CNN Center, Omni Hotel, and Philips Arena.
Climbing the stairs to the balcony I found an available open place to stand. As the night progressed, with We Are Scientists leaving the stage, people began filing in and filling whatever space wasn’t already taken by another warm body.
When the Arctic Monkeys eventually stepped onstage, they initially seemed to come across somewhat standoffishly, with lead singer/guitarist Alex Turner offering only a sardonic quip or comment between each song.
The music left the feeling of being hit with a blunt object, never straying far from the fixed sound of Whatever People Say…, but leaving little room for mental absorption. With such fast-paced strumming and percussion, as well as the lyrical bombardment through such tracks as “Dancing Shoes,” “From the Ritz to the Rubble” and “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor,” the Arctic Monkeys only seemed to further the distance between themselves and their audience.
But while accusations of being uncharismatic come to mind about a band’s inability to engage its audience, I began to think that for the band to behave any differently might have been dishonest.
The thing about the Arctic Monkeys—or at least the strange gravitational draw possessed in Britain as well as in the States—has a lot to do with the kind of perspective they’ve naturally come to embrace and represent on stage, the kind of wrenching outlook that could only come from a generation caught in that unfortunate place between responsibility and the more immediately attractive option of indifference, looking to pass the time with just a few more drinks and late night outings.
Amidst the succinct hooks and conversational, wordy lyrics, the night was about documenting the unglamorous but always exciting aspects of aimlessness, about the meaningless events that turn into the best stories you can’t help but tell over and over again.
I wound up getting home a little after 11:30. My roommate walked in shortly after and asked me why I was home so early. I told her there wasn’t an encore. There really wasn’t a need.