It was literally just a decade ago that the Strokes were basking in an adoration by rock critics that they had only previous lavished on the Smiths, or maybe even the Beatles to a bigger extent. The New York band was a breathe of fresh and scuzzy air after what felt like a thousand years in mainstream rap-metal hell. The Strokes looked different than everyone else on MTV and FM radio, and they weren't screaming at us. Flash forward now nine years, and Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas has temporarily taken himself out of the band's picture to work on his solo career. Casablancas headlined a sleepy show last night at House of Blues, running through the bulk of his debut solo album Phrazes For The Young. The lusty young crowd looked like they probably bought 2001's Is This It with their allowance money. If Casablancas or any of the other Strokes were frightened about tastes changing during their hiatus, they should have nothing to fret about. Most of the other bands in the Strokes' initial early 21st century indie-assault are shells of their former selves. Sorry, The Vines.
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Playing with two drummers, two keyboardists, a bassist, and guitarist, Casablancas' set came off as purely a vanity project - something to do out of boredom, or more than likely, to spite the other Strokes. None of their work away from the band proper is as jumpy or varied as Casablancas was last night. If anything, you can tell just by five minutes with Casablancas that he was always the band's pop heart while the others shunned hooks. This makes the prospect of him ever outright leaving the Strokes not that scary of an idea. Steve Perry jokes aside, Casablancas solo work may be able to stand on its own some day. But he's still getting his sea legs. Nevertheless, Casablancas had to pad out his set with a Christmas tune, ""I Wish It Was Christmas Today" and the Strokes' "Hard To Explain." The sea of dancing going on during the latter sealed our inference that the band is sorely missed. Even so it would be criminal if Phrazes cuts like "11th Dimension" and "Out of The Blue" were to get lost forever. It's almost as if we need the Strokes again to sweep the streets of all the indie-glitch posturing going on today. Remember, when the band first bubbled up, we were enthralled that they didn't need a turntable to make actual music. It was just five unkempt guys and some nasty jeans.
For now, we can deal with Casablancas trying to get us to shake our ass again before the Strokes come back to save rock and roll.
For more photos from the concert, click here for a slideshow.