Musically, The Strokes are not all that hard to pin down. They deliver simple, flat-out rock and roll that swaggers with confidence and catchiness. When they took to the stage on Tuesday, April 27th at the Pageant, they were greeted with thunderous applause and quickly went to work.
It was a set that flew by, delivering the highest caliber of rock awesomeness without relying on flash or gimmicks. This is due in large part to the fact that The Strokes’ songs transfer well to a loving, live audience. As a band, their strength has always lain in their ability to create perfect two-minute pop songs that are verbally catchy as all giddyup, and musically intense. Don’t be fooled by the hype, the clothes or the tales of well-off upbringings; this is a band that gets dirty and delivers a fast and furious concert experience.
Rock music seems so easy for the Strokes. In fact there is very little about their on stage demeanor that isn’t cavalier. There is no doubt that they are rock stars. Imagine the Cars gone bad: wearing nice suits, wooing models, boozing all the while delivering flippantly distorted guitars and clanging percussion
Performing live, the band has a completely different sonic texture than in their albums. The Strokes’ songs serve up a tasty blend of power pop, seasoned with jagged punk edges and basted in guitars and percussion. It is a recipe that leaves crowds awestruck. This set was no different.
Although the set was short and succinct, it was full of intense, raw energy. “Reptilia” was an early, unexpected treat that switched things into high gear. Guitarists, Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi traded guitar licks adeptly framing Julian Casablancas’ raspy vocals. Other early highlights included
the sprawling “The End Has No End” and “12:51” --both delivered with Ocasek-like vocal tendencies. “12:51,” one of the more catchy moments on “Room on Fire,” sounded fresher and edgier live. An already kinetic crowd erupted with the thunderous “New York City Cops,” a song that snarled and lashed about thanks to Fab Moretti’s burly percussion. Midway through the proceedings, The Strokes manipulated “Under Control” into a screamer and transformed “Last Nite” into a harder mixture of left and right hooks.
Vocalist Julian Casblancas, in all of his slurred, hip and pretty glory, basked in the love felt by the Pageant crowd. It is easy to dismiss him as just another rich kid in a rock band. However, when he sings in that sepulchral, agitated voice it becomes easier to forget his social shortfalls. Casablancas’ genuine stage presence came to the surface as he jocularly introduced songs, made jokes, and smiled at his bandmates.
From beginning to end, the frenzied capacity crowd--part frat house, part walking Gap ad--bopped, danced and sang along. “What Ever Happened?” was guttural and glorious. “Automatic Stop” was punchy and fast ,thanks to Nikolai Fraiture’s whipsmart basswork. “You Talk Way Too Much” was an unexpected treat. As Casablancas pointed out in his introduction, it was one they had yet to do on the tour. Other highlights included “Someday” and “Trying Your Luck” that featured a tandem of nerve-bending guitar mayhem from Valensi and Hammonds.
For a band that is oftentimes accused of being aloof and distant, The Strokes appeared awfully gracious as their adoring fans showered them with applause, screams and underwear. All of this reciprocated by Casablancas’ who smiled as he dodged, weaved, zigged and zagged to and fro, thanking the audience throughout the set. He clearly was happy to be here. As for the rest of the band, they were raw. They also gave off an air of nonchalance, standing aloof and coy. Fraiture, Valensi and Hammonds took breaks from being cool long enough to dispatch some mesmerizingly potent power pop that aptly framed Julian Casablancas’ vocals.
On stage, The Stokes take care of business. They come out, play compact pounding balls to the wall
Songs fueled by noise and determination and this show was no different. They rocked out from start to finish, offering a deep set that gave their fans everything they had. They rounded out this eighty-plus minute set with two, sharp, jumpy numbers, “The Modern Age” and “Take It Or Leave It” before walking off the stage, leaving rabid crowd wanting more.
The backbone of The Stokes’ success has always been these blistering live performances. On this tour, they’ve drawn things out by playing longer sets and expanding their songs. The musical matriculation of The Strokes was obvious to those in attendance. The band that showed up at the Pageant on this night was miles above the band that last played here just over two years ago. Furthermore, The Strokes haven’t let the hipsters at radio or fatcats with glossy magazines that constantly extol their greatness get to them. In concert they do not go through any motions. No siree bub, they cast all of that aside and get to the meat of the matter; they are a rock and roll band. This point was driven home resoundingly with their crisp St Louis show, the 24th date of the tour. Finally, The Strokes remained the coolest band in rock by going bowling after the gig. How cool is that?
Photo of Strokes at 2003 Coachella from musthear.com