Concert Review: The Strokes (filter-mag.com)
Technically proficient and sufficiently drunk.
At First Avenue
Filter Grade: 77%
“My brother would be proud of me,” slurred a heavily intoxicated Julian Casablancas halfway through the Strokes’ relatively tight set at First Avenue. “I’ve never graduated from shit. But in a few short years, we’ve graduated from the small room to the big room,” referring to the tiny 250-person capacity 7th Street Entry, a side room of First Ave.
When Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond Jr, Fab Moretti, and Nikolai Fraiture played the cramped Entry in September of 2001, Is This It had just been released. The perfect pop-jangler “Last Nite” had yet to transform MTV from the exclusive dominion of Durst and Xtina into a strange new home for indies like the Hives and the White Stripes. Back then, the Strokes were already rich, but not yet famous. Three short years later, even the drummer is dating a movie star.
The Strokes climbed on the First Avenue mainstage, one that eluded them three years prior, as certifiable rock stars. Not one, but two members (Albert and Nick) leisurely took their positions with bottles of red wine in hand. It was the first--and hopefully last--time I’ve seen any “rocker” drinking wine on stage. I was there to see a rock band, not Serge Gainsbourg.
The largely teenage crowd shrieked and yelped at their heroes, before strobe lights exploded behind the band as they tore into “The Way It Is.” Building to each urgent chorus with perfection, they sounded like a band which had been touring tirelessly for the last two months. The song ended and Julian began what would be a ritual of one sloshed monologue after another between songs.
“How are the good people of the Twin Cities doin’ tonight? Good? I’m excited to be here. I don’t know why I’m excited…but I am.”
“You wanna hear the hits? Here come the hits…this shit’s ‘12:51.’”
“I like Minneapolis people. I love Minneapolis because it has the most animated people. We’re from New York…where we have sarcastic people.”
“Why is it that the nicest guys are always in fuckin’ hard metal bands and the biggest assholes are in these faggot bands?”
“Does anybody not have shit to do on Monday? Is anyone like I used to be and never have shit to do on Monday, and basically live the dream life?”
or the classic
“Twin Cities connections: Albert is from Minneapolis, and Nick is from St. Paul...and I’m a fuckin’ liar. I’m gonna stop talking shit now. But, you know, that’s just our style. I’m not making any sense. Okay...this song’s called ‘Automatic Stop.’”
Yes, he was awfully drunk, and though the “Julian Time” became rather tiresome, it didn’t affect the band as they effortlessly moved from one perfect two-and-a-half minute rock song to another, their intensity peaking with the nearly transcendent “Hard to Explain” and a blistering version of “NYC Cops.”
But, somewhere in the middle of “NYC Cops,” between two of Julian’s vapid diatribes, I wondered why all of their songs weren’t this intense. I wondered why most of the time it appeared as if, while the songs were technically perfect, no one on stage gave a shit about what was happening. Why was Julian rambling between every song? Was this normal for them?
In one of his last orations, Julian imparted, “You know what? I want everyone here to know that we’re going to go backstage after this show and say, ‘That was a great fuckin’ show ‘cause that was a great fuckin’ crowd,’ and that’s the truth everybody.” As if to make us “Minneapolis people” feel like the Strokes really, truly liked us and we ought to feel all the more hip for it.
After the closer, “Take It Or Leave It,” the disaffected band politely waved and walked offstage, with Fab trailing behind, alone at the drums. After gathering his cardboard box of 24 oz Heinekens, he rose from his drum set, met with wild cheers from the devotees. He waltzed to the lip of the stage and handed one of the Heinekens to one lucky underage kid, who immediately had to defend his prize from the grappling hands around him that desperately wanted that beer bottle, touched by the hand of a Stroke.
Fab then appeared to say something into a mic, one that had already been turned off. After realizing the audience couldn’t hear him, he inexplicably ripped the mic from its stand and threw it to the ground, with an explosion of feedback, and walked backstage to supposedly talk about how “fuckin’ great” the crowd was. For this, there were a few scattered cheers.
Rock n’ Roll indeed.