02 April 2010

Julian Casablancas - March 30, 2010

On Tuesday I was finally able to attend a concert at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, one of the best venues in the country.

My friend and I arrived with high hopes for the solo ventures of Mr. Casablancas, considering the brillance of The Strokes, his former/current band.

Unfortunately there was much left to be desired.

I'm a huge Strokes fan and immediately appreciated the singer's foray into unknown territory with his new music. Casablancas debut solo album, "Phrazes for the Young", clocks in at only eight official tracks, and while they're long enough for each to be cut in two and have double the songs, it's blantantly obvious that it's pretty short for a full length debut.
It's also obvious that this is not The Strokes Part II. Casablancas has his own synthetic sound that barely resembles anything on "Is This It" or even "First Impressions on Earth". Yet this is a difficult animal to tie down: although the recorded versions have more in common with Passion Pit, the live versions definitely bare more resemblance to the frontman's prior musical exploits - but not enough to satisfy an already meager audience.

I'd estimate there were about 500 or so in Tuesday's crowd that were dying for a little Strokes fix and receiving nothing in return (save for the one return of "Hard to Explain"). And it is 'hard to explain': people were yelling out "sing The Strokes" and a stranger standing next to me asked if I thought there would be any more in the set list. I responded "no" yet secretly hoped I was wrong. Why would we all be there supporting a solo artist's new material if all we were hoping for was more of the old?

Of course that's assuming the majority were like my stranger friend and me which hopefully was not the case. And this is not to say Mr. Casablancas was bad, in fact his voice sounded pretty great and he definitely puts on a good rock and roll show with his requisite black leather jacket and drink in his hand. The crowd and band were particularly on during the fantastic single "11th Dimension" which was the highlight of the night for me - and felt the most like he was fully succeeding alone.

Casablancas finished the night with the Saturday Night Live cult hit "I Wish it Was Christmas Today" and called it his "curse and blessing" to sing it every night, even out of season. That song seemed to get the crowd going more than any other but it wasn't enough to blow my mind. At only around 50 minutes, the concert was too short and I heard several people say that they wanted more - but what could be expected? Casablancas played almost the entirety of his album along with several "b-sides" (aka bonus tracks on iTunes) and a couple other random tunes to make his 12 song set as diverse as it could get considering the circumstances.

While The Strokes were a phenomenal band that I miss greatly, it's admirable to take a stand alone and make something different so I am respectful of that. It's just a little sad to see magic slip through the cracks.

Ludlow St.
River of Brakelights
Out of the Blue
new song
11th Dimension
Hard To Explain (The Strokes cover)
I'll Try Anything Once
Left & Right In the Dark
30 Minute Boyfriend

4 Chords of the Apocalypse
I Wish It Was Christmas Today

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