Like fish to a bait, thousands of Strokes fans piled into New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Friday night. This has been nearly five years too long since the guys took the stage together in the Big Apple.
Openers The Grogs and Devendra Banhart (Who went on way too early), barely gained any attention. Elvis Costello, also known as our “April Fools,” joke, came out and played about three songs as a surprise opener as well. No one really seemed to care unless he was about to take off a mask and reveal he was Julian Casablancas.
We were there to see The Strokes.
A band that brought Rock and Roll alive for many of us in the crowd, you could look around and see the ripped jeans, converse sneakers and unkempt, but perfectly placed hair. It was easy to believe that everything was back in place. Just how we left it five years ago. It was interesting that the band was playing a stadium in NYC, the biggest headlining show that they have ever done in the city. Being about my 6th Strokes show in NYC, I wasn’t sure how they would carry out a big, sold out venue. The answer is nothing more than “brilliant.”
Cue the 9:30 curtain call and on walks the five familar faces. The crowd gave them one of the biggest welcomes I’ve ever seen and The Strokes seemed to be more than thankful. They wasted no time before launching into “Is This It,” a clever first song. Right away we knew every word, so much that Julian commented on it.
The chemistry of the band seemed to be back. They were tight, and not sloppy by any means, even when Casablancas messed up on a couple of lines. Hey, it happens. If you didn’t tell me they were on a hiatus, I would have thought they were playing together every night for the past year together. It was that great. Bands rarely play so perfectly, then again, no band is The Strokes.
From “Reptilia,” to “Under Cover of Darkness, the band delivered. Mixing classics like “Last Nite,” seemed to be flawless amongst the new tracks on Angles, (BMG) which were even better live than anticipated. Casablancas was chatty that night making comments and talking to the band. They seem to be healing with each other and that makes an arena of 25,000 happy Strokes fans. Highlights of the nights included “New York City Cops,” “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” and “What Ever Happened?,” but honestly, EVERY song was a highlight
Elvis Costello appeared onstage in the midst of “Taken for a Fool,” which seemed to be magical for some or killed it for others. It takes a lot to impress Strokes fans. A lot.
Nick Valensi’s and Albert Hammond Jr.’s guitars intertwined with every single strum and pluck as they held the songs together. Nikolai Fraiture’s bass was smooth and emphasized every note perfectly. Fab Moretti provided brillian percussion bringing up the backbone of the band, even with the occasional use of the drum machine. Casablancas’ voice was dead on with every note and the crowd was right there with him. Jumping into the audience pit a few times, he weaved his way through the crowd and never stopped for a minute. This is always something amazing about the band. They don’t make the fans feel like outsiders, but part of what’s going on.
Climbing on speakers and upper levels, Casablancas was determined to get your attention at any cost. What was that line that Jason Lee said in “Almost Famous”? …”You know what I do? I connect. I get people off. I look for the guy who isn’t getting off and I MAKE him get off.” This my friends is Julian Casablancas. A man who will bend over backwards to make sure you are having a good time and look cool as hell doing it.
A whopping hour and a half later and a short encore, the band closed with “Take It or Leave It.” Just how we remembered it. Ful of energy, an explosion of sound, a jump in the crowd and smooth but raw vocals. As the band left the stage for the night, you could see 25,000 smiling faces.
The Strokes are back.
1.Is This It
3.Under Cover of Darkness
4.Hard To Explain
6.Life Is Simple in the Moonlight
9.You’re So Right
11.You Only Live Once
12.New York City Cops
14.What Ever Happened?
15.Taken for a Fool (with Elvis Costello)
16.Ask Me Anything
17.The Modern Age
19.I Can’t Win
20.Take It Or Leave It