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October 9, 2001

Strokes play the Metro, drink selves into oblivion

If there's one thing you need to know about The Strokes' show last Friday, it's that it rocked, and by rocked I don't mean it was some kind of postmodern masterpiece, steeped in irony and big-words — The Strokes rocked, to put it mildly, like it was 1974. Having the rare combination of a set wired with force, and a trashed lead singer giving off the distinct impression of being an asshole, the night reveled in the same tepid pool of rock ‘n roll excess pioneered by such brave soldiers as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. Plainly said, it went off like a frog in a sock.

Although they were playing five days before the State-side release of their debut album, The Strokes nevertheless managed to sell out the Metro and bring out every denim jacket and rhinestone accessory in the greater Chicago area. By midnight, the slated start of the night's proceedings, a two-block line had wrapped itself around the Metro; the band played closer to 2 a.m. Now if that isn't some kind of hardass ‘70s rock ‘n roll stunt, then I don't know what is. The late start also gave front man Julian Casablancas maximum leverage to get shit-faced throughout a lengthy set by the Moldy Peaches and a medley of Carpenters covers blared out between acts. Emerging for the set somewhere between drunk and blind drunk, the number of times Casablancas stumbled or planted his face into the stage was probably rivaled only by the number of pre-show beers he must've downed.

First up, though, was a set from the Moldy Peaches, one of the stranger fish in the already strange pond of NYC music. “The Peaches" (as some more-indie-than-you kid standing in front called them) brought their bizarre carnival act to the front with surprising energy and tightness. Characterized by deadpan vocals that fall flat on every note they don't hit, the folk-duo of Adam Green and Kimya Dawson were backed this time by a full band, which lent their crazy songs a power-pop edge and even made something like “Who's Got the Crack?" sound half decent. The set started strongly, but soon fell into a tiresome, not especially compelling rant about cocks and asses (with lines like “Who mistook the steak for chicken / Who'm I gonna stick my dick in").

The Strokes on the other hand played a sharp set, charged with all the energy of their debut album, and then some. Working through songs from Is This It, as well as the Modern Age EP, the set was a showcase that gave substance to the hype, showing that the Strokes are more than just a name trendy internationalists have been dropping for the past few months.

The Strokes opened with the buzzing “Is This It," before crossing though the Velvet Underground-ish “Modern Age," the pulsing happy vibes of “Someday," and the throaty belted-out chorus of “Last Night." Slurring something vague about being positive, then someone “fucking everything up," Casablancas slid into the censured “New York City Cops." Casablancas' own alarming state aside, never for a minute did The Strokes let up or lapse into the chaos or indulgent rock sermons common to other bands with piss-drunk lead singers. For that reason alone, The Strokes have a long, bright road ahead of them, paved in part with empty beer cans.