Teenagers filled the Electric Factory on Sunday, April 23 to see a band that hipsters would say is so out they might even be considered pastiche. When the Strokes' "Is This It" hit in 2001, the band ushered in the familiar sound of garage rock which instantly became mainstream. Now, with two other albums under their belt, including this year's mildly disappointing First Impressions of Earth, the Strokes hit up Philadelphia to relay a pleasant mix of their classics and new hits.
Their entrance was decidedly rock star-loud music, neon lights, and a crowd-pleasingly haughty Julian Casablancas in tight black pants and a sweaty leather jacket welcomed the audience to the show. Kicking off with First Impressions opener "You Only Live Once," the band's set promised to be an energetic one, with Julian exhibiting dance moves Aÿ la Ashlee Simpson's hoedown on SNL, and a lively Fabrizio Moretti skillfully banging on his drums. As soon as the song ended, a loud "love the hair, Nick" came from the audience, showing a favorable response to guitarist Nick Valensi's new shaggy 'do. Guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. and bassist Nikolai Fraiture stood on the sides, subdued for most of the show.
Casablancas, usually known for his drunken onstage antics, flirted with the crowd, exclaiming "I've got some great fucking memories. It's great to see you again," to which the new teenaged fans and the old 20somethings who loved the Strokes for their "Last Nite" days, beamed with Philadelphia pride. However, despite a seeming sobriety, Casblancas's singing was rather unintelligible for the first batch of songs, finally picking up with "Heart in a Cage." Following this exciting burst of clarity was the curiously well-accepted rendition of possibly the worst Strokes song ever, "Juicebox."
Perhaps because the Strokes aren't too proud of the song themselves, or perhaps for nostalgia's sake, "Juicebox" preceded a string of songs off Is This It and a cover of the Ramones' "Life's a Gas," which seemed to please, despite the fact that few people knew the song. No matter-whatever the Strokes play would be happily received, because Casablancas' signature move of screaming and crouching into the mic, knees up, fists clenched, could hold one's attention through just about anything.
Except, that is, "Ask Me Anything." Even Julian's somewhat humble introduction, "this is a song me and Nick play together," couldn't help this repetitive Magnetic Fields rip-off sound interesting, especially not live. Thankfully, Casablancas and co. brought energy back with "Vision of Division," and everyone rocked out, knowing the end was near.
After the band played show-closer "Reptilia," the set had lasted an hour (now that the Strokes have enough material to actually put on a full-length show), and the band notorious for not doing encores came back for three Is This It classics, ending with a furiously enthused "Take it or Leave It."
Like the new album or not, the show was an enjoyable evening of reminiscing about the good ol' days before Fall Out Boy, watching a slightly younger generation fall for Julian and the other charmers, and of noticing just how damned short Strokes songs actually are.
Set List: 1. "You Only Live Once" 2. "Electricityscape" 3. "The End Has No End" 4. "Red Light" 5. "Heart In A Cage" 6. "Juicebox" 7. "Soma" 8. "Someday" 9. "Hard to Explain" 10. "Life's a Gas" (Ramones) 11. "Ize of the World" 12. "Last Nite" 13. "Barely Legal" 14. "Ask Me Anything" 15. "Vision of Division" 16. "Reptilia" ENCORE 17. "New York City Cops" 18. "Is This It" 19. "Take it Or Leave It"