UPDATE: Ok, so in talking about the show with some old Strokes fan friends, people have express surprise at the fact that I enjoyed the show so much because…well, it’s just not the same without all the other Strokes. To that point I say this: No, it’s not The Strokes, but in my opinion, Julian is pretty much one of the best things about the band in the first place, so going to see a Julian Casablancas show is kinda like a Strokes show, but without all the other distractions.
That said, Julian’s music is much different than the regular Strokes fare. I like to think his solo work is more pop-based, and a little bit more carefree than Strokes songs. I also think his lyrics are more playful, the song structure more complicated and interesting, and the imagery more vivid. Perhaps that’s more of a reflection of his maturation as a songwriter than anything else, but any way you slice it, the solo stuff is great and you should be so lucky to see him perform it live.
The show last night wasn’t as elaborate as the ones he did in his LA residency (you know, the one that he felt were a fiasco) which included set pieces, costume changes, and an intermission, but it was polished, smooth, and successful. He truly seemed like he was having fun, and the crowd was enjoying it.
He seemed relaxed and at ease with himself and the songs — a very different energy than the one I remember when he plays with The Strokes. At Strokes shows, so much of the show is propelled by each of the band member’s energy bouncing off and pushing one another forward. At a Julian Casablancas show it seems much more like Julian is puttering along, guiding his backup band, and the pace of the show with the slow and steady push of his own internal performance propeller.
I’ve read in some tweets and reviews that people have been disappointed with Julian’s “lack of energy” on stage and I’d like to address that here: People who have seen The Strokes perform already know that JC doesn’t have that same inclination to roam or run around the stage like a frenetic 5 year old (or people like Chris Martin). He’s always been the kind of performer to stay more stationary.
Nevertheless I have always found him compelling to watch on stage. I think the pro-JC camp would agree with me when I say that it seems as though his energy is more focused on vocal expression than physical expression. He also can give a pretty mean intense stare. But he does have a physicality to his performance. With The Strokes his familiar moves seem to come from a place of internal aggression — the impassioned lapel grab, the back foot stomp, and the hand hitting side of the head move. As a solo artist, he seems to be a lot more fluid — his moves were more likely to swing on the side of a breezy waltz across the stage rather than a storming charge to-and-fro. Relaxed? Yes. Boring? No.
Toward the end of the performance he stepping into the crowd, much to the dismay of the event security staff, and before heading backstage he took the time to walk down the front of the stage and shake the outstretched hands in front of him — like some kind of rock star presidential candidate. All I know is he seemed quite happy — he tweeted “Thank you guys!” to his fans directly after the show — as did the audience, and that’s good enough for me.
Just came back from an awesome show at Terminal 5 courtesy of Mr. Julian Casablancas. Julian seemed overwhelmed by the warm greeting from the audience, thanking the crowd several times throughout the performance.
JC and the band blew through nearly all the songs on Phrazes for the Young, including “11th Dimension”, “Glass”, “Ludlow Street”, “Out of the Blue”, “River Of Brakelights”, and “4 Chords of the Apocalypse.” They also threw in some covers — notably a version of “Velvet Snow” by Kings of Leon and yes — an actual cover version of a Strokes song (albeit a b-side) called “I’ll Do Anything Once” as the encore. (See below.)
The crowd was not sated with just the one bonus song, so they continued to clap even though the lights had already come up and JC and Co. relented by coming onstage one more time to play the final song of the evening, a version of “Tourist.”
Just before slinking off stage, Julian sang a couple bars of “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, a tribute to his beloved hometown.