The Strokes/Eagles Of Death Metal @ Hammerstein Ballroom 3/1/06

Firstly, congratulations to our Strokestakes winner, Dennis Jen. Unfortunately, it turned out he wouldn’t be in town tomorrow night, so his friend Andy Cedilnik gets the prize package (autographed everything, tickets, etc) and owes him forever. If tomorrow night’s show is anything like last night’s, he’s in for an amazing time.

Launching into the palm-muted syncopation of “You Only Live Once,” the Strokes kicked off their tour with a confident exuberance tonight that, unlike the uneven First Impressions of Earth, never lost stride or focus. Having seen them move from small clubs to successively larger theaters, I’ve found the band’s struggle to convey its abundant charm to be a function of venue size. Perhaps it was the dramatic “Speed Of Sound”-styled trembling light towers, the enthusiastic, fist-pumping crowd, or the ever-improving musicianship of the band, but tonight the Strokes were built for the size of Hammerstein Ballroom.

Seeing Julian these days is a testament to the effect of matrimony and (relative) sobriety. Newly slim (and utterly coherent!), I counted no less than five statements of gratitude through general talkative excitement, framing his committed and impassioned performance. Discarding the previously ubiquitous distorted vocal effect has symbolized Julian’s newfound willingness to be available to his audience, and has further revealed a nakedly effective rock voice. His scream — albeit a marvelous weapon — did seem to take a toll, evident in the slight strain of the synth duet “Ask Me Anything,” and again as he spoke at the evening’s close (posing a potential issue for deep in the tour). There’s no secret in the sauce here, though: as goes Julian, so go the Strokes, and having replaced indifference with appreciation has made loving this band’s every move that much more enjoyable.



The rest of the guys cut a preternaturally stunning image, each member’s aesthetic distinct from the group. Once a source of weakness, the rhythm work of the “Fab and Fraiture Show” is now muscularly taut. The guitarists continue to work perfectly in concert: Nic Valensi’s new role as gunslinger suits his look, each solo delivered with an effortless yet substantial beauty. Albert Hammond Jr. prods and jerks to the inflections of his jagged rhythm work. With maturity injecting even their classic material with new vitality, the band’s dedicated workmanship was apparent and impressive.

As we’ve seen, a band’s setlist can be an issue of contention. No worries tonight, however. The Strokes perfectly chose and sequenced twenty-three songs, pacing six First Impressions standouts throughout a crowd pleasing, Is This It-based set. Predictably raucous cuts like “Last Nite” saw spikes in audience enthusiasm, as the crowd surfers (and girls-on-shoulders) arose. The set also featured The Ramones’ “Life Is A Gas,” to be released as the B-side of the UK “Heart In A Cage” single. As with any great band performing a cover, the tune managed to sound like a classic Strokes song, a concurrent testament to The Strokes’ ability and The Ramones influence.

Casablancas & Co. consistently choose to travel with incredible acts, from the The White Stripes to Kings of Leon, and this tour is no exception. Eagles of Death Metal persuaded early attendance (a smattering of their fans and Strokes die-hards) to cheer for “the ladies” after every deliciously raunchy and fuzz-box drenched cut. Gone was the compressed EQ of Eagles of Death Metal’s studio work, replaced with the thunderous, ambidextrous drum kit assault of Samantha Maloney, who joined Jesse “The Devil” Hughes as the band’s driving force. Jesse’s skin-tight jeans and t-shirt — accented by a long stache and aviators — completed the image of a libidinously creepy truck stop Casanova, and his three minute garage rock gems were performed to laughter inducing perfection.

You’ll be hard pressed to find yourself at a better show this season. This tour may not convert the unacquainted, but it will definitely inspire unflagging loyalty. Haters be damned. The Strokes fucking rock.

Head over to Village Indian for more concert pics & reviews.

THE STROKES SETLIST:
You Only Live Once
Modern Age
Hawaii
Juice Box
The End Has No End
12:51
Heart In A Cage
Razorblade
Soma
I Can’t Win
Life Is A Gas
Alone Together
Last Nite
Hard To Explain
Ize Of The World
Trying Your Luck
Barely Legal
Ask Me Anything
Vision Of Division
Reptila

Encore:
NYC Cops
Someday
Take It Or Leave It

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL SETLIST:
Bad Dream Mama
??
Whorehoppin (S**t Goddam)
I Want You So Hard
??
English Girl
Kiss The Devil
I Only Want You
Flames Go Higher
Speaking In Tongues