COURTESY OF BIGHASSLE.COM
The Strokes played to a sold-out crowd last night at Pipeline Cafe. Their hour-long set included songs from their sophomore album "Room on Fire."
Strokes’ show satisfies
"He seemed impressed by the way you came in, / 'Tell us a story / I know you're not boring' ... "
Thus The Strokes kicked off their concert last night at the Pipeline Cafe with the song "Reptilia" -- and they were anything BUT boring, their music hitting our collective synapses like a fine, clean narcotic.
Like that and all of their songs, the concert was short, loud, sweet and to the point -- nothing wasted here. The New York City band returned for their second engagement in Honolulu, this time playing an hourlong set (with no encore) to a receptive, sold-out crowd.
When The Strokes last appeared here at the then-World Cafe, the buzz was growing stateside, thanks to their debut album "Is This It" and its breakout, burned-out love song, the rollicking "Last Nite." Well, that, and a generous portion of the album's songs were in the band's set list, but, this time, we had the pleasure of hearing songs done live from their fine sophomore release, "Room on Fire."
And the group certainly lit a fire under last night's crowd. The band had a scruffy, if cultivated, look and demeanor on stage, with their whip-smart musical attack and well-choreographed stage lighting providing all the drama they needed. Singer Julian Casablancas was in a good, if slightly inebriated, mood, welcoming the "party people" to the concert. Guitarist Nick Valensi shared a bedhead-look with Casablancas, but dressed in jacket and tie. Between him and his curly-haired compatriot Albert Hammond Jr., they traded short, sharp melodic hooks with a well-practiced, lockstep ease, with T-shirted bassist Nikolai Fraiture ably filling in with his double-time lines and drummer Fabrizio Moretti -- the smoke from his occasional cigarette looking like well-stoked exhaust from a train -- pounding away with precision. Casablancas' processed singing voice was a scuffed-up counterpoint to the relative sheen of the music his bandmates played with a controlled fury.
The band has been vacationing here since their New Year's Eve gig in Las Vegas, and the extended layover between shows didn't slow them down a bit -- with the exception of Casablancas messing up the final verses to "Hard to Explain." When that happened, the tightly-wound song structure just collapsed and Casablancas sheepishly had to explain to both the audience and his bandmates that "I f---ed up the words! I'm sorry, guys," throwing his arms up in apology. But, no matter, the band had the crowd eating out of their hands.
Other than that, it was a reinvigorated Strokes that chugged their way through a compact setlist of songs. Their first four songs -- the aforementioned "Reptilia," "Alone, Together," "I Can't Win" and "Automatic Stop" -- were just warm-ups, leading to a brisk, back-to-back run-through of their very first, and then latest, singles, "The Modern Age" and "12:51." The snap, thump and release of the barely contained, youthful yearning of the former morphed nicely into the Cars-like click of the older, weary sentiments of the latter.
The band followed that up with the rarely-heard "New York City Cops." Because of its unflattering chorus line of "New York City cops / They ain't too smart," the song was cut from the American version of "Is This It," especially in light of 9/11. But, last night, the band attacked the song with gusto, the stage sometimes awash in red back lights.
Of all the songs played last night, only "Under Control" from the new album was the closest thing to a calmly-strummed love song, with Casablancas almost crooning the lyrics of love gone lost.
Then The Strokes hit the homestretch with the power pop of "Soma," "Someday" (which Casablancas introduced as "a happy song for a happy place," and it was), a verve-filled "What Ever Happened?," through the botched "Hard to Explain" and the hard-swinging "Last Nite," with Casablancas leaning into the crowd nearest the stage, the Rock Star meeting the Common Folk.
Casablancas then threw himself wholeheartedly into "The End Has No End," a cautionary tale of paranoia, and finally breaking through the fear with "Take It or Leave It," strobe lights flickering to punctuate the demand.
Needless to say, the crowd took it and was happy. The Strokes can sonically assault and caress us any ol' time they want to.
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