For my first time in three years, I attended Summerfest’s opening night. I came with high expectations for Arctic Monkeys’ headlining show at the Miller Liter Oasis. I didn’t leave disappointed, but I didn’t leave impressed either. The night started with iffy weather and an announcement from Summerfest that the opening night fireworks were cancelled due to fog. It was disappointing, but I understand. I could look past this because of how excited I was for a great concert to kick off arguably the best two weeks of the year here in Brew City.
As soon as Summerfest ends, I begin looking forward to the next year. I wait for the lineup to be announced and start planning which bands I will see at what times as soon as they are announced. Hearing that Arctic Monkeys would be opening the Fest on a free stage was music to my ears, pun intended. Nothing to kick off two weeks of music and sun like an upbeat, high-energy show, right? That’s what I thought, but I’m still not really sure, because, frankly, Alex Turner and Co. were flat. They came out to one of their most recent hits, Do I Wanna Know?, and they had the crowd hyped up and ready for more. Then, to nobody’s expectations or satisfaction, they slowed it down. Way down. The packed crowd became bored. That’s not an assumption, it’s an observation. Audience members audibly discussed checking out other bands or even leaving early to beat the traffic. The strange part is that when Arctic Monkeys struck up an upbeat tune, such as Fluorescent Adolescent, the crowd responded with dancing, singing, and energy not seen during slower songs. And what did Arctic Monkeys do with the energy? They immediately brought it back down with a slower tune.
That, of course, takes us to the audience. Arctic Monkeys drew a huge crowd to the point where many, myself included, had to settle for standing between bleachers, unable to see, to be part of the show. With a crowd that size, I expected energy and excitement. Again, I was disappointed. Energy and excitement were definitely elsewhere. Why else would fans question leaving early to beat the traffic? Bands and audiences will always feed off each other and with no between-song-banter or upbeat, more punk-influenced songs of their early albums, both the crowd and band were flat. To be very specific, the show wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great either. While I would be interested in seeing them again in different surroundings, I’m glad I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for Arctic Monkeys.