- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

At the beginning of Arctic Monkeys’ sold-out 9:30 Club show Monday night, lead singer Alex Turner hid himself under a hoodie. It certainly couldn’t have been because he was cold; as usual, the place was stifling.

Perhaps Mr. Turner was just a little nervous about how the audience would treat him. No band in recent years has been hyped as much as Sheffield, England’s Arctic Monkeys. The quartet’s debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” was the fastest-selling first album in British history. The United Kingdom’s influential New Musical Express magazine immediately named it the fifth-best British album of all time. It was only a matter of time before the Monkeys invaded America.

How could two 19-year-olds and two 20-year-olds possibly live up to such hype?

The crowd at the 9:30 Club probably reflected the general music population, split as it was between those who embraced the band, enthusiastically singing along to every word, and those who stood watching, challenging the group to win them over.

Mr. Turner and the boys did a pretty good job of it once the singer relaxed and took off his hooded sweatshirt. The Monkeys certainly didn’t look like amateurs onstage. They seemed completely comfortable in the spotlight, playing the instruments they learned a mere four years ago just as well as they did in the studio.

One might have wished for more interaction with the audience, however, even if Mr. Turner’s thick Yorkshire accent wasn’t always understandable. The Monkeys don’t yet have the confident swagger of last year’s big thing, Franz Ferdinand, with whom the Monkeys share a label. The members of Franz Ferdinand joke between songs and toss the crowd cocky looks, but Monkeys guitarist Jamie Cook barely even acknowledged the audience.

The set started with the album’s first song, “The View From the Afternoon.” It was completely fitting: “Anticipation has a habit to set you up / For disappointment in evening entertainment but / Tonight there’ll be some love / Tonight there’ll be a ruckus yeah.” It was as if the Monkeys knew from the moment they started writing songs that they would be heralded as rock saviors.

In songs such as “Still Take You Home” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” (the first single), Mr. Turner seems to have more words to spit out than a song will contain. The Monkeys are barely out of their teens, so it makes sense that most of their lyrics involve going out drinking and eyeing girls.

The highlight of the evening was the cleverly named “Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But …” The song was written about the big labels that courted the band before they were signed. Mr. Turner’s vocals were clear and strong, and the song gave bassist Andy Nicholson a chance to strut his stuff.

It’s hard to believe 19- and 20-year-olds can channel influences as disparate as the Strokes, ska, the Stone Roses, punk, the Who and those label mates Franz Ferdinand. The Arctic Monkeys started as a cover band, but there were no surprising treats for the crowd on Monday night. They stuck strictly to originals. It made for a rather lean set, a little less than an hour. It seemed that as soon as the Monkeys showed up, they disappeared again — but if their work Monday night was any indication, that won’t happen to the band’s career.

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