Arctic Monkeys - La Zona Rosa, Austin, Texas
La Zona Rosa is on the western edge of downtown Austin, about six or eight blocks from East 6th Street, the spiritual centre of the SXSW festival. To get there involved squeezing past a marquee that practically filled one of the city's streets and housed a St Patrick's Day party with a band covering U2 songs.
The venue itself is one of the largest of the sixty or so SXSW venues. Most of the SXSW venues are small stages inside bars or tents on the patios behind them. La Zona Rosa is much bigger holding over a thousand people in what was once some sort of warehouse.
The show is due to start at midnight and does indeed start by five past twelve, the band coming on to the sound of Warren G's Regulate and a Sheffield accent saying, "Turn some f***ing lights on. I can't see f*** all". Then lights flashed and the guitars burst into View From the Afternoon. Alex Turner, wearing a white hoodie with the hood up like he was a boxer entering the ring, played like an angry young man, bouncing across the stage as his hand flashed across his guitar's strings.
This was one of the most significant showcases at this year's SXSW, the Arctic Monkeys being so popular in the UK but, as Alex said four songs in, unsigned in America. Before that, though, he spoke between songs only to berate the press photographers for getting in the way of the real fans. "This is every thing a gig should not be," he said in his broadest Yorkshire accent.
They played most of the songs from their album plus a new one, Leave Before The Lights Come On, that ploughed the same furrow as the old songs.
As a live band they are very tight. The rhythm section played their instruments very loudly, like they are forging steel on anvils, and the two guitars riff spikily over top. So tight are they that during one song Alex makes a mistake and stops and the rest of the band stop instantly too.
If there is a criticism of their show it is the gaps between songs. After almost every song Alex was tuning his guitar and the other three simply stood back and waited. Either one of them needs to talk to the audience or Alex needs to be able to talk and tune a guitar at the same time. (Perhaps he can usually and tonight it was only his clear drunkenness that was the cause.)
The final song was Fake Tales of San Francisco during which Alex briefly crowd surfed, told the audience that he was not angry with them and then the band pushed over their amps as they left the stage, a poor imitation of the Who's stage abuse in the 60s.
Despite being one of the hottest gigs of the festival about a quarter of the audience had left before the end. Some were leaving after only three songs. The two American guys in front of me left the young women they had been chatting up. "We're going to see Snow Patrol," they said cheerily. That they would walk half a mile to get to a 1:00 am gig which they probably would not be able to get into perhaps is an omen for which band the Americans will love the longest.