Saturday, May 13, 2006

concert: The Strokes/ The Most Serene Republic

Friday, May 12, 2006
The Burton Cummings Theatre
Winnipeg, Canada
attendance: 1646 - sold out

I had second row seats on the "floor" and sat there for the opening act, Canadian band The Most Serene Republic, who were interesting with their orchestral, indie-pop sound that is not too far removed from The Arcade Fire. I have their one and only cd, Underwater Cinematographer, which is another gem from the Arts and Crafts label.

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I really couldn't see very well, even from the second row, with the assortment of fans standing on the floor, right in front of the stage. I decided that I would rush the stage for The Strokes towards the end of the intermission. As the stage hands finished laying out the equipment, suddenly, a lineup formed down the aisle, to head to the stage. The security guy stood in their way and allowed those of us sitting in the first two rows to get to the front first. I ended up leaning on the stage, amidst the crush of fans, with Albert Hammond, Jr. right in front of me. The view was the best possible, with no one in front of me.

Julian Casablancas stumbled around and slapped hands during the first song. He made is way to my wide and made contact with myself and these two giddy teenage girls who were right beside me. One who looked like Jessica Alba (no kidding) and she hopped on stage towards the end of the show but was scooped off right away by security. Naturally, her pixie blonde friend had to follow suit. Prior to The Strokes taking the stage, security warned us that they would clear the floor and make everyone sit in their seats if anyone jumped on the stage.

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I have a theory that concerts tend to be better experiences, the closer you are to the stage. While I recognized several of the Strokes songs, some of them sort of came and went without leaving much of an impression, but even so, it all sounded good. There's something about your senses being overwhelmed with lights and sound that helps to make the entire show really enjoyable. I think I will be heading for the stage more often.

Their set list included several notable tracks from the new album as well as their big hits, including Last Night, Hard to Explain, Someday, You Only Live Once, Electricityscape, Juicebox, Heart In A Cage, Razorblade, On The Other Side, Vision of Division (my favorite from the new album), and Ask Me Anything.

The Strokes aren't virtuoso players, nor are they musical innovators. However, they are a fun rock'n'roll band with several distinctive and memorable songs, including quite a few from their new album. Visually, they are okay, but not spectacular. Most of the band actually shoegazed rather than look into the audience. Julian Casablancas, the lead singer, casually wandered around the stage, like a cross between a junior Joey Ramone and Dean Martin. Did he have a few too many drinks before show time? I neglected to wear ear plugs at the Franz Ferdinand/DCFC show, and had a noticeable loss of some hearing for a few days. This, time, I came prepared so I can't say that the show was too loud or not.

I can only of two ways they could have made the show better, play a cover tune by one of their influences, like the Ramones, or Velvet Ungerground and cut loose with some more jamming. I don't know to what extent their musical talent would allow them to do some extended soloing but it would be a change from the usual 4 minute song pace of the entire show.

Next show, Alice Cooper. I saw him twice in the old Arena and he plays the Concert Hall next week.

I would rate my experience at this show as being 4.5/5. My rating would likely have been lower if I were further away as The Strokes tend not to put on a visually exciting show.

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