To say that Julian Casablancas has had a conventional rock and roll road would be a bit of a stretch. The Strokes lead singer came to Detroit’s St. Andrew’s Hall with his solo band on a humid Monday night and his show would prove to be anything but ordinary, whether or not that is a good thing , is still up in the air.
Casablancas opened up the performance in the dark as he sauntered on stage with drink in hand as he wavered back and forth during the swirling noise of the six-piece band behind him before going into “Ludlow Street.” Casablancas’ band featured a drummer and percussionist, two guitarists, and two keyboard players, both of whom occasionally played guitars. The short set, only eight songs, was taken from Casablancas’ recently released Phazes for The Young, save a take on The Strokes “Hard to Explain” which had the crowd thrashing up and down, and a slow keyboard duo of the B-side “I’ll Try Anything Once.”
The set closed with “Left & Right In The Dark” which characterized the short set, guitars and synthesizers mashing over one and other, occasionally syncing up but mostly overpowering each other in a hot mess with some raspy effect laden from Casablancas.. For an encore the band returned for the slow crashes of “4 Chords of The Apocalypse,” which actually had to be restarted from the drum break, but what followed was a bizarre ending to a show: a cover of Saturday Night Live’s “I Wish It Was Christmas Today.” Before starting the odd tune, Casablancas was poised to explain its placement, that he had recorded it previously, but instead brushed his hair back joking, “I’m not going to do my schpiel, I’m just going to act like it’s no big deal to do a Christmas song.” He then ran off stage again and the house lights sent the crowd out just as quickly as the front man had bolted off stage.
The show was short, bizarre and visually un-entertaining, none of which really seemed to match the airy bounce of the synthesizers and harmonized guitars that were so heavy throughout the album versions of Phazes. Maybe some effort into a stage show, possibly more than one light may help. Maybe the latest revival of The Strokes will spark a fire under Casablancas with a slot at Lollapalooza.