The Strokes concert review

The Strokes / Eagles of Death Metal

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In the midst of their tour in support of First Impressions on Earth, the Strokes stopped at the Arrowhead Pond on a late-March Saturday night. The Eagles of Death Metal provided support, and while they were technically proficient, especially on their best song, “I Only Want You,” frontman Jesse Hughes seemed more interested in hearing the ladies scream (as he said, “let’s hear it from the ladies!” over and over) than he was in actually putting on a rock show. Oh, to be a “rock star.”

But the main attraction was the Strokes, who came into the Pond with a swagger. And who can blame them? They have three critically acclaimed records under their belts and are selling out bigger theaters across the country. They didn’t sell out this venue, however, as the “Theater” at the Pond is really just half of the arena with a black curtain blocking off the back half. Throw in a few fake chandeliers and you have yourself the most non-intimate theater in the state of California.

The band sounded good, but frontman Julian Casablancas’ vocals are so garbled that it’s almost impossible to understand anything he’s saying. This creates a distance between the band and its audience, hurting the show in the process. I also have to question the group’s ability to judge its own songs, leaving “Razorblade,” the best track from Impressions, off of the set list (which included seven other tracks from the disc). Also snubbed were “Under Control” and “Between Love & Hate,” the two best songs from Room on Fire. All of this adds up to a mildly disappointing evening.

However, there were a few highlights, including the opener, “You Only Live Once,” which started the show with a bang. The group sounded especially tight on “Someday,” and Casablancas’ vocals were surprisingly intelligible throughout the song. But it was two back-to-back tracks from Is This It, the breakthrough single, “Last Nite,” and the follow-up, “Hard to Explain,” that provided the best moments of the main set.

The most intimate point of the evening came when the rest of the band left the stage, allowing Casablancas and keyboardist Nick Valensi to perform “Ask Me Anything,” in which Casablancas sings “I’ve got nothing to say” over and over. Maybe that explains his chronic mushmouth.

After a short break, the band returned to play a b-side (“New York City Cops”), a hit (“12:51”) and the last track off their debut album (“Take It or Leave It”), leaving this writer reasonably entertained, but unsatisfied. As I walked out of the arena, I just kept mumbling “Razorblade, Under Control, Between Love & Hate” to myself, over and over.

Here’s the set list:

You Only Live Once
The End Has No End
Red Light
Heart in a Cage
Last Nite
Hard to Explain
Ize of the World
Life's a Gas [Ramones cover]
I Can’t Win
Trying Your Luck
Barely Legal
Ask Me Anything
Vision of Division


New York City Cops
Take It or Leave It