Being a bit of a curmudgeon about the Strokes, it was with something more than a small amount of trepidation that I approached frontman Julian Casablancas' solo show last night at the Ogden. It's not that the Strokes are bad (they're not); It's just that they're so ... tidy. Polished. Derivative. Casablancas on his own is not much different.
The Strokes' American rock meets Brit pop sound remains here. Just add some '80s electronica, and Casablancas is still the Strokes, possibly even Strokes Lite. In and out in about an hour exactly, the band performed just twelve songs, encore included.
There was indeed energy there, but at the same time, it still felt tired, formulaic. The set started a little tepid with a new song, "I know, I know I'll never get it back," followed by the vaguely twangy, enthusiastically march-y "Ludlow St." and the soaring, passionate "River of Brakelights," both from Casablancas' album Phrazes for the Young.
Balcony superfans enjoyed the space sounds, rocking guitar solo and body shaking bass featured on "Glass" and the catchy, repetitive crowdpleaser "11th Dimension." The electronic beats on "Left & Right in the Dark" had the dude next to me air drumming like mad.
The single song encore, "The Tourist," inspired a couple standing nearby to immediately embrace. Can't blame 'em. The lyrics are pretty sweet:
Some will bet against you, try even to prevent you
But not many can stop you man. If you've got the perfect plan
Can they possibly try, I demand to know why they would doubt you
In this hand, a thousand generations ...
The show included just one Strokes song, about a third of the way into the set.
It's admittedly a little unfair to complain. The sound is tight. The musicianship is unquestionable. The vocals are there. The two keyboardists double as additional guitarists. The drummer freaking rawks. And holy shit does Casablancas sound like Lou Reed sometimes.
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Yet isn't it fair to expect more? If I want an hour of prefab I'll just listen my car. Even the crowd seemed a little laconic, clapping barely beyond politely when the band left the stage after eleven songs.
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Apparently it's not the only abbreviated show Casablancas has performed recently. His recent show in the Twin Cities, opening act included, reportedly ran less than two hours. Pretty sure Casablancas was wearing the same outfit, too. Check it out.
P.S. How sweet is Haim? The five-piece band, led by sisters Danielle, Alana, and Este Haim rocked their little, precious hearts out, highlighted by the final song, a tribal rock out where the three women and the keyboardist abandoned their instruments to all beat on drums.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Julian Casablancas is a futuristic version of The Strokes. Random Detail: Opening act guitarist/vocalist/percussionist Danielle Haim played back-up drums during the entire show. By the Way: Casablancas' drummer (who was this guy?) looked and played just like like Animal from the Muppets.