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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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