A behind-the-scenes look at Alex Turner and Co.'s big gig with the Black Keys before and after their first trip to the legendary New York venue's stage.

1.1

1/19

"We've been swearing so much more on this tour," Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner laughs, minutes before he and his slightly hungover crew dig into their first soundcheck atop the Madison Square Garden stage. "We're enjoying being the warm-up act — we just go out there and shout at everybody for 45 minutes. I don't know if its nerves or that I know some people aren't listening. But I'll drop a massive 'fuck,' and then maybe, someone drops their popcorn." Jaws dropped instead. While last night's outing marked the Monkeys' first in the Garden, they're taking their current job as openers (another first, it should be said) for the Black Keys very seriously. And though Turner expressed earlier doubts that his songwriting and the Monkeys' angular sound might not translate to a room so large, last night the transformation seemed complete: The Arctic Monkeys have become an arena-rock band. You could hear it the moment they appeared last night, be it in the monstrous low-end of "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," a highlight from last year's Suck It and See, or recently released standalone single "R U Mine," an searing earworm Turner calls the "best song they've got" and one whose crowd response has been so overwhelming thus forth, they've made it their go-to closer. By that time, the Garden was not as they had entered it — it was alive and full. "This is not," as Turner assured us, "just punching the clock." DAVID BEVAN

Read on for more of Turner's commentary before — and after — the Monkeys' maiden trip to MSG, and check out our 2011 cover story.

2.1

2/19

"We've been swearing so much more on this tour," Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner laughs, minutes before he and his slightly hungover crew dig into their first soundcheck atop the Madison Square Garden stage. "We're enjoying being the warm-up act — we just go out there and shout at everybody for 45 minutes. I don't know if its nerves or that I know some people aren't listening. But I'll drop a massive 'fuck,' and then maybe, someone drops their popcorn." Jaws dropped instead. While last night's outing marked the Monkeys' first in the Garden, they're taking their current job as openers (another first, it should be said) for the Black Keys very seriously. And though Turner expressed earlier doubts that his songwriting and the Monkeys' angular sound might not translate to a room so large, last night the transformation seemed complete: The Arctic Monkeys have become an arena-rock band. You could hear it the moment they appeared last night, be it in the monstrous low-end of "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," a highlight from last year's Suck It and See, or recently released standalone single "R U Mine," an searing earworm Turner calls the "best song they've got" and one whose crowd response has been so overwhelming thus forth, they've made it their go-to closer. By that time, the Garden was not as they had entered it — it was alive and full. "This is not," as Turner assured us, "just punching the clock." DAVID BEVAN

Read on for more of Turner's commentary before — and after — the Monkeys' maiden trip to MSG, and check out our 2011 cover story.

3.2

3/19

"I think when your Dad's excited that you're playing somewhere, you know it's a big deal," Turner tells SPIN. "And he is excited. He said, 'Oh you know, you've got the Garden in a week. Make sure you get some rest.' "

4.3

4/19

"At home we put off playing arenas for a long time. We thought this music wouldn't translate into such a big room for some reason. It felt like it had too many edges on it. It wouldn't fit. There wasn't enough room in it. Or maybe we were just frightened. But when we made that transition, we realized you can make it work. The Keys have proven that."

5.4

5/19

"I remember the first day of our arena tour back home, having just been in the States playing mostly clubs and stuff. We went from playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg, which is tiny, to an arena in Nottingham and it was like, 'Oh shit, you need to put on a different cap on for this.' I never took that hat off after that."

6.5

6/19

"We were 18, opening for Oasis in this big room in Toronto, everyone was taking pictures. It's like when you first go to a football match and you walk out into a huge space like that and you get butterflies because you're not used to seeing this. You don't get that gasp when you walk into a room like that anymore, but it's still exciting."

7.6

7/19

"I don't know how it's going to be tonight, I may eat me words. Of all the times we've played so far on this tour, it's not been a bunch of people falling asleep and texting. They've been seemingly engaged with what's going on, even enjoying themselves. When you see that, that reaction makes you feel like you've reached something that we haven't always had in the States."

8.7

8/19

"There's no [pre-show] ritual or like, clearing of the dressing room. Just a tequila shot, to take the edge off."

9.8

9/19

"In the beginning, playing to two figures was definitely a target. I'm not just saying that. It was a goal."

10.9

10/19

"To go and do that thing, to be Mr. New Year's Eve for a minute onstage, I have go and spend a portion of my day being quiet or stupid. And with this tour, because we're the opening band, we really want to do a good job of that. We want to really warm everybody up. Most of these people aren't here to see us, so we want to push it. We've had great opening bands and you can tell the difference when you go on and everyone's just watched Eagles of Death Metal, for instance, and they're fuckin' up for it. We want to do a good job for the Keys. We have to make the calm before that storm even calmer than it usually will be."

11.10

11/19

"You do sort of exaggerate every movement. People say that when you're on TV or camera, you have to move your arms twice as much as you normally do. But you make bigger gestures on these stages."

12.11

12/19

"Glastonbury is a different kettle of fish, but that was always something similar [to Madison Square Garden], some place we aspired to get to. It's magic in a way. You can't really explain it."

13.12

13/19

"It felt like more people were smiling than frowning or falling asleep. It felt great."

14.13

14/19

"Most people think that's funny, But you know there's one guy with his Milk Duds who's like, fuck you."

15.14

15/19

"Right before [we went on] I was thinking, 'Oh shit, this is a big deal.' I think it's weird because it's not our show. It means a lot to us to be able to do this but at the same time we're aware that it's their night. We're just hyping everybody up."

16.15

16/19

"It's unspoken: 'Oh and then there's Madison Square Garden. Twice'. And then you move on. You just know, don't you? You're selling this place out twice, you're not fucking around anymore."

17.16

17/19

"Did I talk too much? Have I said too much? That's what I was thinking. When it's your own show you get used to not having to do that thing: Come on everybody! Let's do this! So when it goes kinda quiet between songs, every now and again, I'll start yelling at everyone for a minute. Was I too hard on everyone?"

18.17

18/19

"I have to make an effort not to take a moment to think about what I'm doing up there. That's when you look down at your guitar and feel like it's something you've never seen before. I try to avoid that moment. Like all these actions I'll do now, it's built in. I can't fucking do the Macarena again tonight but if I don't do it, I'll fuck the next line up. There are a lot of words in our songs. I don't want to make it seem like I have it hard or anything, but you start thinking about it too much and step out of that zone, you don't know where you are. What is this? What is this place? You spend all day in your head and then for that one hour, you don't. Especially the old songs, if I tried to sing a verse from one right now, I couldn't do it. But in that moment, when I'm there and they're all around me, playing, it's built into me. I can do it."

19.18

19/19