Arctic Monkeys late afternoon set on the What Stage, essentially opening for Elton John, packed the main venue at Bonnaroo to capacity. With not an inch between those in attendance, it was the most surprisingly strong turnout for any band this year at Bonnaroo. For a band who has never played the festival before to premiere during the day, on Sunday when many have gone home, and see nearly everyone left on festival grounds pack in to watch them is a testament to just how big Arctic Monkeys have become.
The frenzied, overheated crowd went nuts for the band the second they took the stage, roaring to life with hit "Do I Wanna Know?" and fledging right into their funky bass notes and strong drumming. Many fans turned to alternative methods of keeping cool during the band's fiery set, spraying each other with squirt guns, women and men alike stripping shirtless, and one guy even riding an inflated air mattress across the crowd.
In addition to roaring applause after each song, and masses who knew every word and belted along, the fan girls of Alex Turner's suave new look simply couldn't contain themselves or their squealing. When the younger version of Turner, with scruffy hair and a slightly greasy appearance, showed through for a moment as his hairdo succumbed to the Tennessee heat, he quickly quelled any thoughts that he wasn't the sex idol countless of women worldwide have made him into - and earned many shrieks as he whipped out a comb and slicked his hair back into place without skipping a beat. Much like the rest of Arctic Monkeys' show, the moment felt almost too convenient to not be choreographed, before becoming apparent that they're just that polished.
"It doesn't matter where we're all from, we are all just Bonnaroovians here," Turner told the crowd early on. He repeatedly brought up his ideal of American festivals - that they're about hippies and spreading the love - between such hits as "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor," and "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High." Turner and the band captivated the audience with their distinctly British swagger - perhaps the most fitting to their nationality's cliche of any of the bands that played Bonnaroo this year. The audience ate it right up, flying Union Jack flags and all. It was clear that this is a band, and this was a performance, to go down in the Bonnaroo records as one of the greats to remember from this generation.