Nickel Eye’s First US Show @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, CMJ 2008

Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture performed tonight with his new pet project/band, Nickel Eye. They played a number of songs, including “Back from Exile”:

and “Brandy of the Damned”:

Unless I missed something, no other Strokes appeared at the Music Hall tonight.

The first song the band played was my favorite… airy, with beautiful harmonies sung by Joel Cadbury and Jamie McDonald of South. (They flew over from England in order to play the show!)

The crowd was far from packed, but there were a good number of people there—surprisingly the crowd looked pretty young (were all the older-timers out in Manhattan?) with a disproportionate amount of Asian girls up in the front.

One blonde girl, who I think likened herself to being the Brooklyn version of Miley Cyrus was hooting and hollering at Nikolai the whole time, shouting out things like “I LUUUUVVV YOUUUU NIIIKOOOOLAAAIIII!” and “YOU HAVE A GREAT A** NIKOLAIIIIII!” Charming, as you can imagine.

Nikolai’s established shy and understated demeanor hasn’t changed as a result of his new job as the leader. His Lurch-like hunch was still present as he strummed the guitar, his hair was coiffed in the same exact pageboy style for which he’s known. He was dressed in “typical” Nikolai attire—casual suit jacket and pants, button down shirt, big belt buckle and shoes. It was almost as if nothing had changed since the last time I probably saw him onstage in 2006(?) during the “First Impressions…” tour.

Yet there he was, singing his own songs with a new band… it was a little bit like the Twilight Zone to be honest.

However, Niko does has a bit of ways to go as a front man, the best illustration of this point was during the 4th song, which was a Bob Dylan-esque folky tune in which Nikolai played the harmonica. Instead of blowing hard into the ‘monica to get a full, rich sound, Nikolai seemed to tweak air into it with the type of force that one would usually reserve to blowing crumbs off the table.

But I’m sure you want to know, who’s solo effort is better? Albert Hammond Jr. or Nikolai Fraiture.
That’s kind of like asking me to choose my favorite child, isn’t it? (OK, it’s Julian.) But seriously, I thought some of the tunes were quite good, and thought that Nickel Eye sounded much better live than the recorded stuff they currently have on MySpace.

Whereas some of the recorded tracks sound a bit too much like The Strokes, live they carry a different vibe and gravitas. When I listened to the songs live, I didn’t feel as though they were just discarded Strokes songs—the lyrics are a bit more introspective, linear, and…softer…instead of in your face, nonsensical, and jagged.

All in all a good night, and a job well done for Nickel Eye’s second live show.

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