The Strokes - Blackpool Empress Ballroom - 14.2.06
Are the Strokes a case of style over substance? They dress down, act cool, say very little in interviews, are detached, louche and not very animated. Lyrically on new album "First Impressions Of Earth" have a pessimistic outlook on life. The irony is of course that the band all come from privilege backgrounds, are well educated and have had very few problems financially or otherwise. Is the image a sham and are they in fact as manufactured a band as say Girls Aloud? The jury's still out but what about the Strokes as a live act?
These New Yorkers certainly have a strong fanbase. Tickets sold out for this tour almost immediately and the young boisterous audience at the Empress Ballroom are certainly up for an anti-valentine's night with frenetic pogo-ing and singalongs to boot. The quintet stroll on for their debut appearance at this Northern Seaside resort with an impressive futuristic light show which certainly puts the illuminations to shame. Singer and eye candy Julian Casablanca's hardly moves all night in a night of controlled stillness. His mumbled Lou Reed delivery is an acquired taste as he gives moody stares like a 21st Century Rebel Without A Clue. It's an act of course he's worked on to perfection like a method actor researching a role of a tortured rock star.
Too mandy mediocre album tracks start the Strokes set list which has me pondering what exactly is the mass appeal of these scruffy yanks. This feeling doesn't last long as the single "Juicebox" is blasted out with Nikolai Fraiture's pounding bass line and Albert Hammond Jr's frenetic guitar licks. "Last Night" from their debut and arguably best album reminds fans how brilliant and inspiring they once were just a few short years ago. These are the moments when the band and crowd come together like kindred spirits on a quest for rock supremacy. Another gem from the latest long player is "Vision Of Division" which is a balls to the wall rocker in the opening few chords which mutates into a U2 Stadium sequence with surf guitar and a hint of psychedelia.
It's a sweaty gig with red faced fans all over the place determined not to miss a single moment. Closing a lengthy ninety minutes with songs including "New York City Cops" is a crowd pleasing move, but its been an uneven set and although out of the new material there's much to appreciate it does highlight how much better the older songs are. And as they're only on album number three it is a worrying thought of what the future (if they have one) has in store for The Strokes.
Words: Nicholas Paul Godkin
Photos: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com
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