August 16, 2002


SUMMER OF STROKES: I just returned from the Strokes/White Stripes concert at Radio City, and I must say that in this Battle of the Bands, the Strokes win, hands-down. Which isn't to disrespect the Stripes at all- after all, if every rock band to emerge in the past two years were in the tournament, these two would likely be the #1 and #2 seeds.
There was nothing really out of the ordinary about the White Stripes' set- just the mysteriously related Jack White and Meg White on stage with no backing musicians and in their trademark all-red-and-white outfits. They played a great deal of material from their two pre-fame albums (which most of the audience clearly didn't recognize and therefore wasn't into) and also chose to forgo performing their biggest hit, "Fell in Love With a Girl" from the "White Blood Cells" album. But they did play the best songs on the album, "Hotel Yorba" and "We're Going to Be Friends" The Stripes were good, but not outstanding, and somewhat surprisingly they didn't particularly capture my imagination or that of most of the audience, from what I gathered. After all, The White Stripes' style isn't particularly conducive to such a large venue, and the accoustics at Radio City were surprisingly substandard.
The Strokes, however, certainly did live up to expectations. Now while the two groups' studio material is roughly equal in terms of quality, for some reason (maybe it's the existence of a rhythm section) the Strokes had a great deal more enery on stage and the crowd was considerably more into them. I had seen the Strokes before, in Boston earlier this summer, but that was nothing compared to the performance they gave their hometown crowd tonight. The band rampaged through almost their entire "Is This It" album in addition to four other tracks, all of which were outstanding. They even brought Jack back out for the encore, a song called "New York City Cops" that was left off of "Is This It" for obvious reasons last October.
Julian Casablancas and co. spent their hour onstage completely debunking the pervasive anti-Strokes backlash that has been perpetuated by an obnoxious group of jealous New York rock snobs ever since they came on the scene a year ago. In an odd choice, the music played in the Hall during the half-hour set break was from a Ramones live album- and the Strokes managed to follow that up without making fools of themselves. In New York, that's as great a complement as I can give a young rock band. Tonight's show as not part of any tour, but rather the second of two shows in New York, the city that in a way made both bands (while the Stripes are from Detroit, a successful Manhattan show last spring was the beginning of their climb into hipsters' hearts.)
In short, if The White Stripes come to your city, try your best to make an effort to get tickets. If the Strokes come to town, don't you dare even think about missing them.

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 16, 2002 03:10 AM
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