Review: The Strokes at Coachella

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18 Abr 2011, 8:21

One night after Arcade Fire absolutely killed it at Coachella, a very different feeling emanated from Indio, California, tonight. I was not there, so it is entirely possible that the mood was completely different in person than how the show came across on the YouTube simulcast, but if indeed things were as uncomfortable as they seemed at times, one may even have to question the viability of The Strokes going forward.

The show began with a thud, with the members of the band all slightly out of sync, their levels out of whack (a problem that never seemed to be fully fixed), and Casablancas's mic apparently not on. But still, by the end of the surprise opener, I Can't Win, they had seemed to pull themselves together, finishing the track strong. All seemed well as they launched straight into a crowd favorite, their vintage hit Hard to Explain, but they then stumbled through Angles' best track, Under Cover of Darkness, with multiple band members making several noticeable mistakes throughout the song and Julian apparently not entirely sure how the lyrics go.

After a somewhat underwhelming rendition of New York City Cops (though I must grant that the worst performance of that song is still worth the price of admission), the rest of the show had only a few major highlights wedged in between Casablancas's, at times, baffling remarks and some interesting setlist choices. The band chose to play Games and You're So Right, quite possibly the worst two tracks on Angles, while leaving out songs that are quite simply better, like Machu Picchu and Life Is Simple in the Moonlight. Still, when they launch into some of their strongest offerings in the catalog, it is impossible not to remember why you came in the first place.

The most troubling aspect of the performance was what occurred between songs. Casablancas has never been one to butter up the crowd in a particularly smooth manner, but tonight's often disjointed, jarring interludes were a little troubling and bizarre. I suppose the same could be said about some of the interesting things he said at Lollapalooza last year, but his demeanor was different, sarcastic and aloof in both instances, but last summer he seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. Even though some of his outbursts were genuinely funny ("Let's fucking Juicebox their faces off," for instance), it isn't hard to question whether or not he, or the rest of the band (save for Albert, who seemed to be having a good time), actually wanted to be there. Without hearing the other side of the exchanges between the lead singer and the rest of his bandmates it is difficult to say this with certainly, but on a few occasions it seemed that simple questions of timing, when to start songs, were revealing some tensions within the band. The Strokes clearly have a different operating model than they did when they were younger, and it is one in which the band members are clearly further from one another. That need not necessarily be a problem, but, as a long-time Strokes fan and concert-goer, something just seemed off tonight.

Even with four albums in tow, the band played only sixteen songs with no encore, though Kanye West's upcoming set may have played a role in that decision. All in all, I'm sure The Strokes have put on far worse shows, but had I been in attendance, I have little doubt that this would rank as the worst of the many Strokes shows I've seen in person. I think it was simply a rough outing, and not necessarily cause for concern, but this would not be the first time that I've worried about the future of The Strokes. They've been to the brink before, and time on the road could put them right back there.

Even so, the tone on various Strokes-centric web sites has been uniformly positive, though the same cannot be said for tweets about tonight's show. Maybe it was the fuzzy camera work and black and white image that painted my perception, but I simply can't shake the slight sense of disappointment I got from watching them tonight, particularly after they were at their very best last year and had put on nice, but necessarily brief, performances in all of their recent television appearances. Oh well...I guess you can't win them all.

Setlist:

I Can't Win
Hard to Explain
Under Cover of Darkness
New York City Cops
Games
Someday
You're So Right
The Modern Age
You Only Live Once
Taken for a Fool
Juicebox
Under Control
Gratisfaction
Reptilia
Last Nite
Take It or Leave It

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