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Perhaps sensing that this isn’t one of their better nights, The Strokes let rip at the end
Stuart Clark, 19 Apr 2002
It used to be other people making outrageous claims on their behalf, but now The Strokes seem to agree that they’re one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands on the planet.
All the trappings are there – self-reverential interviews, backstage fisticuffs and career blonde girlfriends (Nick Valensi is currently squiring John Taylor’s -ex, Amanda de Cadenet). None of which matters a jot if you’re capable of producing the same live magic as U2, REM, Iggy Pop, Radiohead, Primal Scream or, ahem, Andrew WK.
The omens tonight couldn’t be better. Not only is the Olympia stuffed, but there’s an expectancy among the mainly 20something crowd that they’re going to witness something transcendent. Me? I just want to get pissed, jump around and go home feeling all warm and gooey inside.
Arriving on stage after a horrendous Moldy Peaches-style support – death to the alt. folk movement! – they certainly look the part with their carefully disheveled hair, geometrical cheekbones and ‘70s-era CBGB’s wardrobe.
They also sound it on an opening salvo that consists of the new ‘Meet Me In The Bathroom’, ‘The Modern Age’ and my personal Is This It? fave, ‘Someday’.
Fifteen minutes in, though, and the gloss starts wearing off. The first thing you notice is that apart from looking like male models, they don’t actually do much on stage. Then comes the realisation that 1). Julian Casablancas really doesn’t have much of a voice; 2). All of the songs follow exactly the same jingly-jangly blueprint; and 3). A goodly proportion of the crowd are looking round to see if they’re not the only ones who aren’t totally blown away.
Matters aren’t helped by Casablancas being visibly tired and emotional – he introduces ‘Soma’ twice – and a mix that’s muddier than the average Kerry cow field.
Perhaps sensing that this isn’t one of their better nights, The Strokes let rip at the end (they don’t do encores) with turbo-charged versions of ‘Last Nite’ and ‘Take It Or Leave It’. It’s also the cue for Jules to clamber up onto the speaker stack and fall into one of the Muppet boxes, and Albert Hammond Jr. to plunge head-first into the idiot dancers at the front.
A points victory then, when what we really wanted was a knock-out punch.