Words by Audra Tracy
New York City — The crime scene at 7th Ave in New York City was not pretty around 11:30 Friday night. The floor of Madison Square Garden was strewn with the remnants of what were once the eardrums of 15,000 fans. Glassy eyed stoners stumbled aimlessly through the halls, drunk girls were being carried out by their companions, and everyone exiting the venue seemed to have the same dumbfounded expression like they had just been penetrated. Heads ringing from the aftermath of a major musical onslaught, it was clear The Strokes had left their mark on the famed arena.
It was a lot to take in. After all, the band credited for saving American rock n’ roll hadn’t played a NYC show in years, and this sold-out event was their first ever performance at the world-renowned venue. Touring in support of their new LP, Angles, The Strokes left no New Yorker unfazed.
Rewind. Just after 8PM, the father of freak folk Devendra Banhart bore the burden of warming up a nearly empty venue. Sadly, his quirky Spanglish musings and mellow West Coast vibes fell mostly on the confused ears of Tri-state teenagers. While incalculably under appreciated by the impatient Strokes fans, Banhart put on a ‘greatest hits’ set that included ‘Baby’, ‘Long Haired Child’, and the ever-uplifting ‘Seahorse’.
The clock was nearing nine and MSG was poised for the main event. The lights dimmed, the arena roared, and out came…Elvis Costello? The crowd rubbed their eyes in disbelief as Costello bellowed ‘Happy April Fool’s Day!’ before tearing into his 1978 classic ‘Pump it Up’. The brief surprise set also featured “Radio Radio,” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding”.
At long last, The Strokes surfaced, opening with the slow jam ‘Is This It’ before ripping into ‘Reptilia’, a song that was truly made to blast through the Garden’s cannon-like speakers. Joints were lit, panties dropped, and just two songs into their set, The Strokes already owned the house and everyone in it.
From his leather jacket all the way down to his neon high tops, frontman Julian Casablancas proved once again that he is infinitely cooler than you are. He may have flubbed a few lyrics (including the opening line of ‘Last Nite’), but the man was born with a mic in his fist, and he wields his weapon well. In what seemed like an inevitable suicide mission, he courageously forged onto the floor for ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight‘ and ‘Juicebox’. Throngs of fans reached out for a brush with flesh, but Casablancas seemed unruffled by his stay in the pit, thanking his crowd for being “so gentle” before encouraging them to “tear me to parts!”
Angles wasn’t the only star of the show, as evidenced by the crowd’s reaction to older material like ‘Under Control’ and ‘What Ever Happened’ off 2003’s Room on Fire, and especially ‘New York City Cops’ from the band’s debut album Is This It. The Strokes then topped their recent Letterman performance of ‘Taken for a Fool’ when Costello reappeared onstage to join Casablancas in singing the song’s hook to close out the set.
Under the glimmer of a massive spinning disco ball, the five-song encore began with ‘Ask Me Anything’, one of the rockers’ rare ballads. The biting guitar riffs of ‘The Modern Age’ raised the level of sonic chaos one last time before ‘Take it or Leave It’ found Casablancas back amongst the clutches of his hungry congregation.
All in all, The Strokes seduced Madison Square Garden like they had a truckload of roofies. They shook the walls, stole your breath, and left you desperately pleading for more. Take it or leave it.
Is This It
Under Cover of Darkness
Hard To Explain
Life Is Simple in the Moonlight
You’re So Right
You Only Live Once
New York City Cops
What Ever Happened?
Taken for a Fool (with Elvis Costello)
Ask Me Anything
The Modern Age
I Can’t Win
Take It Or Leave It
TheWaster.com | New York City