It’s a fact. Some bands out there do nothing but scream. But the smart, talented bands let the audience do that job. And the Strokes, with their touring companions Eagles of Death Metal, clearly know how to pull off a screamingly smart performance, if their April gig in St. Louis was any example.
No one will ever accuse the Eagles of Death Metal for lacking energy. A side project of Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme (and a switch of roles; from QOTSA frontman/guitarist to drummer), Eagles of Death Metal is all about the spastic, good-time, two-minute rock songs. Touring their debut album, Death By Sexy [Rekords Rekords], the fairly new band has had lots of commercial success--literally, in television commercials--and yet they remain relatively under-the-radar in the music world.
“I love this crowd so hard, St. Louis, you have no fucking idea!” hollered Eagles’ singer, Jesse Hughes, to the sold-out crowd at the Pageant. At the last song, singer Jesse ripped off his shirt, while the wife-beater-T’d Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Homme himself, stepped forward with the rest of the band to take a bow to a standing ovation. Most of the Strokes fans probably didn’t know a thing about Eagles of Death Metal, but afterward, they didn’t know what hit them.
If it helps to rate the quality of a performance with some rock and roll benchmarks, some of my well-traveled concert going friends considered the Strokes’ April 2006 performance to be one of their Top 5 shows of all time. Opening with “Heart In A Cage,” the audience was in a frenzy from the word Go. A terrific (and terrifically huge) light show presented this band as the mega-stars they’ve evolved to be, and the crowd backed up that fact 100 percent.
If any band has squarely nailed every fashion of 1960s rock within one musical group, it’s the Strokes. You’ve got the page boy, the hairy guitarist, and the American afro, framing one of the best-looking frontmen in indie-rock, Julian Casablancas, whose look is reminiscent of the 1960s’ leather-jacketed poet/bad boy, Jim Morrison.
Casablancas sounded strong and nailed each song dead-on to the recordings, yet with enough emotion and excitement to let you know this was no lip-synch. The majority of his fans are probably too young to recognize it, but while Casablancas has his own sound, he has clearly studied more than a few Doors’ performances on film; he’s got Morrison’s moves down-pat--from the passionate crouches and almost-kisses of the microphone, to the way he grasps the stand with his elbows up. And hey, if you’re gonna imitate, why not go for one of the best?
For the first beats of the peppy guitar of “Juicebox,” the crowd went insane. As Julian crooned the words, “You’re so cold, you’re so cold” he was bathed in purple light as lights went off like fireworks fountains on either side of the stage. The girls (and we’d venture to guess, a few of the guys, too) screamed in hysteria over every expansive physical gesture and every reaching vocal note.
The Pageant wasn’t hurting for compliments that night, either. “We fuckin’ love this place! It’s good to be back!” Julian said appreciatively. A terrific, fun cover of the Ramones’ “Life Is A Gas” broke up the set that was a generous mix of all three of their albums. The encore was prefaced with a dedication: “This is for Josh [Homme], who desires this song. And we do what he desires because he’s The Shit.” (Josh evidently desired the kick-ass track, “The Modern Age.”) And finally, the Strokes’ last song of the night, “Take It Or Leave It,” was a strong and energetic closer which left the crowd as all good concerts should: screaming for more.