January 9, 2006
The Loft @ Earthlink Live
Atlanta, GA

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Perhaps the hardest concert ticket to get a hold of in 2006 will come down to this warm-up show for The Strokes impending First Impressions Of Earth tour. With this date (one of only four in America) being announced at the last minute and held at a small club that holds only a couple of hundred, tickets were scooped up in minutes. Lines around the block greeted those who showed up late as some began lining up as early as 10 a.m. to take advantage of the general admission event. Outside, many of those milling about were ticketless fans who hoped for a miracle. Of course, 99X, the promoting radio station managed to save a handful of tickets to those willing to partake in the most silly and humiliating stunts. Were you too slow with Ticketbastard? Then all you have to do is get your fashionable clothes covered in ketchup and mustard and let a stranger lick it off of you. If you do it in the most entertaining way, you too can get in!

Once inside, the lucky few dished about the new record, released just 6 days ago. They debated on whether this would be “The One” or if Is This It was, in fact “it.” Opinions seemed about 50/50.

Still wrapped tightly in the hype of being the perennial “next big thing”, The Strokes sauntered onto the stage at 9:30 with no fanfare before bursting into the current single “Juicebox” (which may be the best “Spyhunter” rip off since Skid Row’s “Piece Of Me”). The energy was high. The band was tight and ready to go. After the opener, the heat was turned down to a slow simmer. Every next song seemed based on the same angular riffs, pulsing bass lines, danceable beats and mumbled lyrics as the last one. There was nothing bad but there was also little that stood out. With the exception of the diehard fans in the front rows, the crowd was milling about within a half-hour. By this point, it was more about drinking, seeing and being seen. After a while, it felt like The Strokes were simply the backing band for a killer party. This effect may have been partially aided by the inability to actually see the band. No spotlights revealed their faces and back lighting obscured what might’ve been recognizable. If you paid to see The Strokes tonight, you were sorely disappointed.

Luckily, hearing them was no problem and every now and again, the band would hit just right and pull the attention back to the stage.  The brand new “Razorblade” was one of these. A catchy opening guitar lick propelled a jittery beat similar to The Cars’ “Touch & Go” and cut to a swinging chorus that even caught the attention of those deep in conversation.

Simultaneously reminiscent of Television and Barry Manilow, “Razorblade” is definitely a winner. From there, the highlights were all obvious. The mid-set inclusion of “Last Night” started a modest bit of pogoing and “Hard To Explain” even managed to uncross the coolest kids’ arms long enough to do a bit of fist-throwing. The only song from the band’s sophomore album, Room On Fire, to make any real impact was “The End Has No End” but honestly, no one seemed to care or miss what they left out from that one anyway.

The encores were where it all came together. “New York City Cops,” “Soma” and “Take It Or Leave It” found the still poorly lit silhouettes flinging themselves around the stage in a way that would have been unimaginable a couple of years ago. The effort didn’t go unrecognized either. The fans responded in kind and were inspired to create, not a mosh pit, but a dance party wherever it wasn’t too thick to move.

Overall, it was an entertaining night out but don’t let the upcoming media blitz fool you. This Strokes is the same as the one from last year and the year before. And that’s not a bad thing. The Strokes make solid records and while their concerts have never been particularly interesting or special, they do throw a pretty good party.

Chris McKay