- 25 Feb 20
In a special 'surprise show' at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast last night, The Strokes showed that the hits are still brilliant – and, better again, there’s promise of fine things to come…
It’s grim up north these days (to borrow a phrase from our English neighbours). When we’re not being battered by a battalion of storms, the people of Belfast and beyond are feeling increasingly hobbled by the now all-too-real blight known as Brexit.
Thankfully, hipster heroes The Strokes are in town tonight to help remind us all that there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. Your humble Hot Press scribe is front row for a much-needed sonic tonic.
It’s been well over a decade since Julian Casablancas and Co. last graced NI’s biggest city (2006 for those keeping score), so it was no great shock to learn that tickets for this hastily arranged “surprise show” were scarce. Looking a little older, but thankfully not behaving any wiser, this evening the New Yorkers are a hail of whiskey-soaked croons, bristling guitars and economic bass-lines.
Is tonight a nostalgia-fest? Definitely. But it’s a lot of fun too, as The Strokes dip into their evergreen back catalogue. As expected, it’s those indefatigable gems from their near perfect 2001 debut Is This It which still dazzle most. ‘Someday’ is a buoyant shuffle that’s laced with a welcome dose of melancholy; ‘Hard to Explain’ is untarnished by time; and ‘Take It or Leave It’ still packs a punch Tyson Fury would be proud of.
Ever the anti-showman, singer Julian Casablancas’ performance tonight is as defiantly prickly as ever. When he’s not lying on the drum riser while warbling, he’s trying to skewer a mirror ball with a mic stand and telling the crowd his “singing gloves” are called Randy and Jack. Bassist Nikolai Fraiture, meanwhile, earns some brownie points by paying tribute to George Best and The Undertones.
‘You Only Live Once’ from the band's patchy third full-length First Impressions of Earth has aged remarkably well and grooves with the best of them, as has ‘Heart In a Cage’ which has a wonderful, Iron Maiden-indebted guitar riff Adrian Smith himself might have invented.
Elsewhere, newie ‘Bad Decisions,’ which shamelessly purloins from the songbook of Generation X, suggests comeback album The New Abnormal could yet make those busy writing-off The Strokes eat their words.
Although the too-cool-for-school aesthetic feels a little contrived at this stage (the likes of Jerry A or John Reis could teach them a thing or two about stage craft and charisma) and they only play for around 60 minutes, there’s no denying the sheer joy of indie anthems ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Reptilia’.
And joy is definitely something we all need a little bit more of right now.