Show Review (UCSD Rimac Arena, San Diego)

    The pounding, propulsive bass line and fiercely regimented beat of “Juicebox” (from 2006’s First Impressions of Earth)
    were declarations of intent. As singer Julian Casablancas pleaded, “Why
    won’t you come over here?” and the lights illuminated the mostly
    college-aged crowd, the band seemed to be announcing: There is no going
    back to the club.

     

    [more:]

     

    This is the Strokes, after all, darlings of the New York underground. But that was years,
    ages, a lifetime ago. Things have changed. The scene is somewhere else
    now. But the Strokes are still around, and they’re a hell of a lot more
    talented than they used to be.

     

    This
    is not a band that stumbles around a tiny stage anymore. This is not a
    band that drunkenly makes it through the set on character and style
    alone (although it probably could). Yeah, the Strokes played “Last
    Nite,” (off 2001’s Is This It?) and it retained its appealing sloppiness, but Casablancas knows how to work a crowd; he’s a performer,
    whether it’s his intention or not. His mannerisms — sometimes slowly
    walking or dancing around the stage, other times grabbing the mike with
    both hands, almost posing with it — wavered between
    club and arena. But, again, that’s the band members themselves: moving
    from the small venue to the large crowd, certain changes have to be
    made.

     

    And
    what’s exciting to see is not only how they act, but how they play.
    They don’t just burn through their set; there’s a sense of build, a
    calculated feel of what works, what song should follow what. Though
    they started slow with “You Only Live Twice” and “Red Light,” (from First Impressions of Earth),
    they knew what to emphasize — the notorious and loud dual-guitar
    attack of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr., Casablancas’s cracked
    but always engaging wail.

     

    The
    highlight of the March 28 show was “Electricityscape,” which seemed
    suited for the arena. With the lights beating and flickering,
    Casablancas was a true frontman, singing, “You belong on the radio,” as
    Valensi, in rock-star pose near the front of the stage, played the
    soaring and melodic post-chorus guitar line. There were other moments
    that showed their sense of climax and build — “Ize of the World,”
    “Hard to Explain,” “The End Has No End,” a crushing “Vision of
    Division” — but this particular song was as good a representation of
    the new Strokes as you’ll get. That, and scanning the crowd I saw only one skinny black tie. Things are changing. There’s no going back.

     

    What
    the Strokes have evolved into, with only three albums, is a real group
    of proficient musicians whose command of the stage, the crowd and, most
    important, of their own material, has made the leap from packed club to
    packed arena a natural and welcome jump.

     

    Set list:

    You Only Live Twice

    Red Light

    Juicebox

    The End has No End

    Life is a Gas (Ramones Cover)

    Soma

    I Can’t Win

    Heart in a Cage

    Electricityscape

    Last Night

    Hard To Explain

    12:51

    Ize of the World

    Trying Your Luck

    Barely Legal

    Ask Me Anything

    Vision of Division

    Reptilia

     

    Encore:

    NYC Cops

    Someday

    Take It or Leave It

     

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