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Julian Casablancas At Irving Plaza Wednesday March 24th: Going To Hell In A Leather Jacket By Iman Lababedi

Last time I saw Julian he seemed distant though pleasant. I’ve seen the Strokes several times. Very memorably around 2002 on a double bill with the White Strokes and, despite a broken foot, and leaning against a stool, Casablancas blew the White Stripes so far off stage it wasn’t funny. So I have never really considered him a dick on stage, but he has grown quieter. Not last night. Loquacious to the point of babbling, funny and connected, he talks straight to the audience and connects very well.

I think at first maybe it’s me, the difference between seeing the set straight and seeing it polluted. I caught him earlier this year at Terminal 5 and thought it was terrible but I had just learnt about the death of a friend of mine and was staggerringly drunk.

But maybe it wasn’t me because after it’s over I’m walking behind a guy on his cell discussing the difference between the two. “It was so much better paced, he started off just clinging to the mic but then he really began to build on that.”


Actually, he was awesome from the get go. If you’re gonna open your set with the perfect “Ludlow Street” (not as great a drinking song as “Theme From ‘Cheers'” but pretty fucking good) you better having something under the roof. And if you are gonna follow that with maybe your least commercial song “Rivers Of Brakelights” you better get your balance quick.

Casablancas does that. Shaking and twitching, throwing away his shades and his cool after “Ludlow Street” he shakes his body against the accomplished roar of a band getting tighter by the second. He pulls the mic out of the stand and moves about his head down, that tender and tough voice shatters any last aspect of hip in the set.

The set zips for an hour and a quarter, a straight blast from one end to another. Casablancas and his band are charming, arrogant and unassuming all at the the same time. “You guys are great and I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it” he says: I wonder how many audiences he’s seduced with that come on… He discusses 101.9 WRXP’s 2nd anniversary celebration, which is why we’re here, and mentions the old “what is cool” tagline.

“It’s hard to chant Julian” Casablancas notes before the first encore, “The Christmas Song” (funny guy, right). But the moment I’ll take with me is “Left And Right In The Darkness” with the lot of us singing along to the hook: “WAKE UP, WAKE UP…”

I’m awake already.

All wrongs reversed, kid.

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