The Strokes paid tribute to You Am I last night in a Melbourne performance that left many fans yearning for rock'n'roll's glorious second wave.
“I just want to say, a long time ago we were here with You Am I – does anyone remember You Am I?” Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture says to one of the larger screams of the night. “Oh shit. I think we played the Hi-Watt in Melbourne…Hi-Watt? I think that’s…shout out to You Am I for taking us on our first Australian shindig.”
“…Yeah, You Am I….anyone else?” Julian Casablancas blathers. “Right…where the fuck am…oh, right – ‘Adults Are Talking’.”
God does it make us feel old, but The Strokes are officially rock veterans. As they blasted through hit after fantastic hit, rendered with superb accuracy and enough world-weariness to fill a battlefield trench, we were both astounded by the quality of 2000s indie rock and reminded of that old adage: ‘don’t meet your heroes’.
Casablancas is 43-years-old now and he’s bearing a closer resemblance to Noel Gallagher in both looks and attitude with every passing day. 20 years after Is This It, no one expects the punky private schoolboy that influenced a generation, but hidden behind permanently-affixed sunglasses and a blanket of smoke at John Cain Arena, he seemed truly torn between personalities.
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He delivers those dynamic, soaring vocals so easily that his static presence is easily misconstrued as disinterest. He clearly cares about his delivery – you don’t rip through an hour-and-a-half of back-to-back classics with that vocal quality if you don’t give a shit – but he clearly doesn’t care about engaging the audience. That’s not a problem unless you make it one, but Casablancas self-sabotages with whacked-out behaviour.
Everyone else in The Strokes is similarly static, but they turn up and play the riffs and fills that defined the early 2000s and their devoted crowd – every second bloke brandishing that iconic electric blue Strokes logo – lap it up. It’s easy to forget that Arctic Monkeys released Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not five long years after The Strokes dropped Is This It. They were way ahead of the curve.
Casablancas and The Strokes play their classics with earnest precision, which makes them worth the price of admission for the value of their back catalogue alone…the fact you’re seeing a band that won a Grammy for Best Rock Album last year is just a bonus. Ultimately, anything after that is damn-near irrelevant.
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