Edge

The Strokes ruled Billboardlive

They came, they played… and they left. Sure, the Strokes had already conquered the audience that came to see them perform at Billboardlive well before they stepped out of their bus. Singer John Casablancas didn’t so much as utter a complete sentence without a four-letter word tucked in between, and took hold of the microphone as if he were about to fall asleep any moment.
But that’s part of the mise-en-scene that makes the Strokes all the more exciting to hear and see. The sound of their short but well-knit set, that here garnered a couple new tunes not included in their debut, but which expand their range of rhythm and melody, enraptured the packed venue.
Boys moshed close to the stage, making the security toughies frantic and overly concerned. These kids were not out to make trouble, just like the band they came to see. They body-surfed back and forth, wave after wave, and those who weren’t bouncing up and down at least banged their heads.
Anyone who’s heard a Strokes song can say that it’s a very catchy collage of 1970’s-laden punk rock. Some say it all sounds the same, but that is not precise. The fair thing to say is that each song is an angle of John Casablancas’ musical persona, and sometimes some angles seem superimposed.
But look?and listen?closer and you will notice that even his muffled voice and dejected poise are more complex than they seem. It’s a careful study in expression. He’s got IT, and doesn’t even have to try making IT in order to make his emotions come across. How many times he will be able to match this subdued energy on stage and in new compositions, is the riddle that, so far, his audience has not picked up on. But the record executives decked on the VIP lounge at Billboardlive surely staked much into whatever IT is.
We’ve heard all the naysayers claiming that the boys from the boarding school had it easy, that the collegial look and dress of the Casablancas gang is the stuff of teenage-girl morning dedication, but ask somebody sans the class-bias and jealousy, and chances are they will remark on the tightness of the group as a whole.
The guitars played by messieurs Hammond and Valensi never miss a chord, sounding full and round in tone, yielding a cascade of fast and fancy riffs. Bassist Fraiture hangs back with drummer Fabrizio Moretti and put the engine into motion so the driver, Casablancas, can careen the vehicle in fast-gear around jaw-dropping cliffs of sheer energy.
With lyrics that mix innocence, bravado and jadedness, the tunes that make up their debut album Is This It? echoed around the venue propelled by the compliant fandom present, and those who were not so familiar with the band left with at least a couple of choruses playing in their heads along with the buzz from the outrageously loud speakers.
The Strokes played all the tunes they had in about one hour and then left the stage, prompting many in their audience to ask: “Is this It”?
Brazilian drummer Moretti still managed to throw in a solo performance, sipping from and handing out a beer bottle to the audience; he then threw himself onto the throng, only to be restored back onstage and into the paws of a misguided security honcho.
Yes, that was It.
And it is up to define the elusive pronoun.

January 25, 2002

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.