After acing the downhill parallel parking job, my roommates and I hustled down the hill and over a few blocks to the Showbox. There on the marquee read: Julian Casablancas. We strutted our way through with just a few straggler smokers still hanging outside. My roommate got stopped at the door for a purse search, finding a five hour energy drink, the bouncer said she could give it to him or chug it. Not wanting to waste the $2.59 she spent on it, she shot it back. Little did we know then, but it was a good decision because an hour later we were dancing our asses off.
Julian Casablancas is on tour promoting his new solo debut album Phrazes for the Young. Seattle was one of only four cities on the US leg of the tour. After listening to Phrazes for the Young, I was curious to see if he could pull it off live. They don’t seem like the easiest songs to play, with the multiple layers in each song filled with drums, beat machines, guitars, synthesizers, and who knows what else.
When we walked into the Showbox, you could feel the energy, it was nothing but good vibes. The room was filled with excited chatter, this was not just a concert, The Strokes front man was coming back to Seattle after three and a half years; this was an event; a celebration! It almost felt like we had won tickets to get in, like this was some secret show that only an exclusive group of people were allowed in for. Or maybe it just seemed like that to me because in my eyes Julian Casablancas is the guy who saved mainstream music for awhile. Maybe if he hadn’t, someone else would have, but no one stepped up until The Strokes did. It was Casablancas who was responsible for getting indie rock ‘n roll to become widely accepted, record companies to start jumping at good little bands and getting radio stations to give airtime to good music. With all the hype The Strokes received and then the negative backlash; in the midst of it all people seemed to forget that before The Strokes, Limp Bizkit ruled the airwaves.
At around 10:00 the band came on minus Julian, and started playing the intro to “Ludlow Street”, while the crowd screamed and yahooied. Julian Casablancas walked on stage about 45 seconds later to even louder cheers and began to sing. I’ve seen The Strokes multiple times over the years and Julian’s voice has always been flawless, tonight was no different. Though critics usually take aim at Casablancas for not being able to understand him when both singing and speaking, this was definitely not the case. Casablancas seemed extremely happy to be there, sober, and appeared to be almost surprised that any of us had come to his show.
The sound was incredible, right off the bat you could tell the band was tight and the sound guy had his A-game. The band featured two guitarists, a synth player, drummer, and a percussionist / bass player. These were no slouches; everyone in the band was very good at what they do. On stage Casablancas looked like a band director, directing his own symphonies of futuristic 80’s beat driven pop treats created just for our ears to hear. After a few songs the band launched into the first single off the album, “11th Dimension”, with its catchy synths and beats that made everyone dance. It’s almost impossible not to get that song stuck in your head, and I mean that in the best way possible. From there they went into Left and Right in the Dark, an awesome 80’s sounding song with a strokesy chorus and a riff that reminds me of a flock of seagulls’ song.
The band then left the stage, leaving Nelson the synthesizer player and Julian on stage. Julian said “I’m going to sing a cover, I’m not sure if you know it, its called I’ll Try Anything Once”. He was referring to the stripped down Strokes B-side, everyone yelled. Of course we all knew it, it was a song I personally never thought I’d get to hear live. In the middle of it you could here the audience softly singing along like a children’s choir. I think everyone was a little mesmerized.
The crowd was unusually easy going in nature, dancing around and having a good ole time, thanks in part to the all ages crowd. Casablancas claimed it was the best crowd they’ve had yet. They played “Old Hollywood”, a b-side, followed by the Cure-ish sounding, “30 Minute Boyfriend” and the epic movie ending song, “Glass”. Julian and the band then rolled off stage for a minute and came back to finish the night with the soulful, “4 Chords of the Apocalypse”. When the song ended Casablancas graciously bowed with his hands together and thanked the crowd again before leaving the stage.
All in all, they were on for about an hour, playing all but one song off Phrazes for the Young and leaving the crowd amped and wanting more. Though we missed them, I heard opening bands Rainbow Arabia and Strange Boys were pretty great. After the show my roommates and I decided we were, without a doubt, driving to Canada the next night to see Casablancas and his crew again. Then, regrettably we realized none of us have passports. I guess there’s always next time. Julian, please come back soon.
1. Ludlow St
2. River of Brakelights
3. Out of the Blue
4. 11th Dimension
5. Left and Right in the Dark
6. I’ll Try Anything Once
7. Old Hollywood
8. 30 Minute Boyfriend
10. 4 Chords of the Apocalypse