I hate the Strokes. The best new band to come along in years, they are rich, young, attractive, tall, talented and doing what they love as they traverse the globe putting on enigmatically excellent shows. This is not to mention that they”re from America”s new love affair New York City. Not since Nirvana captured the essence of early-“90s boredom-born angst has a band been so perfectly suited to its time.
Copping their best “Here we are, now entertain us” attitudes, the crowd at St. Andrew”s Hall Saturday night was appropriately diverse for this new millenium of music. Grunge kids having grown into so many sub-genres (indie, emo, garage, etc.) over the years, the Strokes” variously influenced sound attracted a representative contingent from each bunch. But through the years, no matter in which niche they eventually landed, the Children of Nirvana have grown up and their tastes matured. They”ve traded their thrift store flannel for designer denim, homeless chic for mussed prep, coffeehouses for local bars, heroin heroes for cigarettes-and-beer boys.
Far from the Cobain-ly strung out, sloppy live sound, the Strokes performance was perfectly precise and full of vigor. Each member of the band executed every note like he meant it, but the Strokes” live performance comprised a study in contrasts. Guitarist Nick Valensi and Bassist Nikolai Fraiture hardly moved whilst playing, both standing stoically behind their instruments as if the music siphoned their energy to move and shot it through the speakers. But drummer Fab Moretti and guitarist Albert Hammond relentlessly punished their instruments, Moretti”s mop of curls flying just as wildly as Hammond”s windmill windup strums. And with them, lead singer Julian Casablancas, the manchild behind the Strokes who writes all of the music and all of the words, stumbled and careened around the stage visibly drunk, but musically flawless.
Unfortunately, the contrast between the band”s live show and only record, Is This It, is all but nonexistent. The concert”s song order was like the CD on shuffle, as was the actual sound. It is commendable that the Strokes can put out such a good album and completely and accurately recreate it on stage, but it was also a little disappointing for the concert attendees who already knew it. With the exception of Casablancas” addition of the occasional “fuck” to the lyrics and the new, but entirely unremarkable, song “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” the Strokes” live show sounded exactly like their record.
But there was added live intensity, largely drawn from the audience. At such a scenester-style show, one might expect a sea of hipster head-nod, but at a few points there was full on contact hopping (just short of moshing) and even a few air-pumping fists. Mostly in their “20s, the crowd who sang, “I feel stupid and contagious” as part of their adolescent anthem may well adopt the Strokes” “Barely Legal” chorus of “Oh, you ain”t never had nothin” I wanted, but/I want it all/I just can”t figure out/Nothing” as its more mature mantra. Regardless of how much older, wiser or cooler the crowd gets, live music remains a collective experience and Saturday night showed that Generation Whatever is ready for it.
The Strokes” Is This It release date was delayed two weeks due to the September events, but it was originally scheduled to come out on Sept. 25 exactly ten years and one day after the release of Nevermind. Ten years and five weeks after Nirvana played St. Andrew”s Hall for the first and last time, the Strokes appeared there and showed Detroit that hopefully music”s direction is about to again change for the better.
I”m not like them, but I can pretend