When the Arctic Monkeys came onstage Monday at the Paramount for the first of two sold-out shows, the adoring audience cheered at just the sight of them. The band responded with a performance that was white hot, yet also surprisingly detached and cool in places.
The heat came from the band’s hit-laden 90-minute set, in which nearly every song was well known to the audience from radio or television. None earned more applause than the opener, “Do I Wanna Know?” from the current album “AM.”
Lead singer Alex Turner has a distinctive baritone vocal and a way of turning a phrase that adds a snarl. He seemed more restrained Monday than in past Seattle outings, but that doesn’t mean ineffective. On “Arabella,” his Beatlesque croon drove the song, yet it fit under the guitar riff rather than over it.
A backlit screen illuminated the band and there were few spotlights, so the players appeared in silhouette or shadow. That understated approach downplayed personalities and put forward the music.
Much of that music relies on guitarist Jamie Cook, whose subdued playing provided the night’s icy cool. On “Fluorescent Adolescent,” Cook illustrated how one singular riff can define a song: with just a dozen notes, he created a guitar voice, a signature. The Monkeys’ spare approach is the key to understanding its appeal.
Bassist Nick O’Malley and drummer Matt Helders were steady. Their interplay seemed to work as a harness on Turner, particularly on “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” As a result, many songs had an interior tension, with Turner taking them to the point of explosion and the rhythm section holding him back. Though counterintuitive, by keeping the beat slower, the songs had more power.
The Arctic Monkeys have often been compared to the Strokes and the Black Keys. On Monday, the band closed the show with “R U Mine?” which is fueled by a fuzzy guitar riff from Cook that could have come from either of those bands’ songbooks.
What’s different about the Arctic Monkeys is that Monday’s crowd trended younger than for past shows, a sign that its sound remains fresh. That’s a marketer’s dream, and goes against all typical trends.
8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11-12, at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; sold out (877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org).