And so we have it, the biggest concert so far this year for Sydneysiders; a packed-out, uniformly excellent performance from indie rock legends Arctic Monkeys and DMAs on support duties. It felt like a festival; it basically was. The Domain has been used quite extensively as a venue over the past few months, jumping from Rufus Du Sol to Ellie Goulding to Fuzzy’s annual Field Day. Walking into the venue feels exciting; it feels like New Year’s Eve.
As I walk in, I’m elated to be back in The Domain. Food trucks such as Happy As Larry are parked up near the entrance, the bar queues move at a snail’s pace. You’d hardly think the 14th January followed a chaotic week of back-to-work jitters and sluggish New Year, New Me exhaustion. Again, it felt like a larger celebration than it actually was; it felt like New Year’s Eve.
The atmosphere alone does it. The atmosphere is entirely worth it. And yet, I can’t help but feel special attention is needed with The Domain. Rufus du Sol had it in spades, with an excellent sound mix that was boosted by larger-than-normal speakers for those past the sound tent.
Arctic Monkeys, however, weren’t afforded such forethought. What was to be one of the most anticipated gigs of the New Year’s period sadly drowned in a poor mix, feeling deathly quiet for anyone who was more than halfway back from the stage.
If I can hear British expats do that uber-cool thing where they chant DJ Otzi “Hey Baby” (honestly, so cool) over the music and no one else joins in out of pure disgust, the sound isn’t good. Doubly so when Matt Helders’ frenetic drumming just doesn’t jostle you around the mosh pit as it should.
The problem here is that the Arctic Monkeys need an edge. Not that Alex Turner minds too much, as he gives us brief tidbits of his characteristically barely-there, slurred crowd interaction. How were they to know that the impact of classics like “Brianstorm” and “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” only really thumped with the kind of chaotic energy you’d want for those in the frontmost mosh pit?
But sound mix aside, it was a routinely excellent showing from a band that is nowhere near a stranger to these shores. A tight, well-considered set list, a few reworks (“505”, “Four Out Of Five”), some surprises (“From The Ritz To The Rubble”) and hits like the aforementioned. The band has never lacked in energy, and they still don’t.
The problem is catching that energy and giving it to the crowd. The band can’t do that on their own, and so concerts like this rely heavily on sound engineers to catch lightning in a bottle and disperse it far and wide. Arctic Monkeys showed up and did their job well; the sound guys did not.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Feature image from Lost Paradise 2022.