As we pass the three year anniversary of the Tranquility Base hotel and Casino tour, Arctic Monkeys’ most recent creation continues to inspire and impress.
Growing up, I exclusively listened to the pop hits of 104.1 KRBE and the classic staples of my parents’ generation. As I became older, my music taste inevitably expanded and matured, leading me to become enraptured by the slightly more mellow and altogether more methodical works of Arctic Monkeys.
From the descriptive tales of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, to moody tones on Humbug, each album forms its own respective universe located just far enough out of reach to maintain its mystique. Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino (TBHC), a semi-conceptual album, weaves personal comments between anecdotes about an imagined moon hotel. In fall 2018, I was able to experience this Monkeys microcosm first-hand at the TBHC show.
The 70’s apparel, vintage instruments, and flashy stage decor transplanted me from the venue and into the world the group had so tediously crafted. This show allowed for me to see music as not only melodies and lyrics, but as an opportunity for an immersive experience, inviting the fan in with all senses to appreciate and interact with the artist’s vision.
The album cycle began with a mysterious release preceded by nothing but an opening line- “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes.” The choice not to release any promotional singles forced listeners to drop expectations and invest in Arctic Monkeys’ reimagined persona characterized by glowy, Kubrick-esque imagery. From the handcrafted Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino model on the album’s cover to the myriad of primary-colored, space-age photoshoots, Monkeys fans were prepared only for an inventive concept and unprecedented sound.
Post album release, the band toured for nine months, stopping in Houston just over three years ago on October 12, 2018. To begin, flashing red lights and a star-studded stage accompanied “Four out of Five,” a new fan favorite. Playing vintage Wurlitzer Keyboards and Burns London Bass Guitars in flared pants and dress shirts, the group truly appeared to have teleported from a 1973 lounge gig. This new appearance, however, didn’t prevent them from embracing older hits like Humbug’s “Crying Lightning” and Favourite Worst Nightmare’s “505.” During the TBHC title track, purple and green lighting washed over the band as Alex Turner took over the persona of hotel employee Mark, wishing customers a good afternoon.
Towards the end of the set, the crowd enjoyed the bands’ loungier versions of “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “Do I Wanna Know'' prior to a false departure. Before the encore, the crew revealed a M O N K E Y S sign and a shimmery, rotating cube to accompany “Star Treatment,” the opening track of TBHC on which Turner ponders if he “was a little too wild in the 70s.” Sticking to their 2013 tradition, the band closed the night with an extended performance of “R U Mine?” leaving both new and seasoned fans satisfied.
Now, without any mention of new material or tour dates, the band leaves fans to rewatch 2018 performances, realizing another level of ingenuity each time.