House of Vans – December 5th
As Julian Casablancas takes to the stage, the room explodes into a state of constant, ecstatic fan-boy eruption. As soon as catchy scream along single ‘Where the Eagles Fly’ starts, it’s clear the audience isn’t here to see what happened to a post hiatus-Strokes but here to witness the thrashing sound of Julian Casablancas +The Voidz themselves.
In replacement of the never forgettable riffs The Strokes produced, guitarists Jeramy Gritter and Jacob Bercovici present something both unique and interesting. With an array of effects and distortion, the band pummel your ears with fresh prog-rock and almost heavy metal influence; yet, melody remains predominant throughout. ‘M.utually A.ssured D.estruction’ is a fine example of this: tribal drums and heavy synths signifying a massive departure from the indie night sing alongs. The result is a beautiful reminiscence of the underground 80’s, yet consciously aware of taking you out of your comfort zone and into this artsy robot exhibition where the music screeches ethics of morality. ‘Human Sadness’ kicked in straight after to bring the tempo down with a volume that’s still just as beautiful and erratic as the rest of the set.
Casblancas has a way with the stage that is intrinsic, loyal but at the same time overly cool. It’s not the smug, shades in the dark, wannabee-vampire cool, it’s the new age peace, enlightenment and Trotsky-read kind of cool. For a man of this much rock star credibility, it would be unnatural and unfaithful to play down such an attribute. He thanks his audience with a bow that seems unavoidably routine yet one hundred percent humble. What you notice most however, is the mood of Casablancas moving together with the music. You see something real happening behind every lyric. You’ll catch him screaming melancholic melodies into the microphone, eyes suitably fixed despairingly at the ground like the result of a ketamine induced trance.
As much as I’m a fan of Casblancas’s muffled vocals, this latest musical venture has taken them into overdrive, somehow surpassing the ruggedness of early Nirvana demos. Even as he speaks to the crowd, you’re squinting and turning your head like you’re missing a hearing aid. The sound is proof that Casablancas has no interest in sounding commercially viable, instead focusing on conveying energy than clarity.
As the night comes to an end, it’s encore time and the crowd is soothed into ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’ – the little B-side brother of ‘You Only Live Once’. A worthy performance on its own with the finger snapping and suaveness you’d only want a handful of people in the world to do. Excluding the predictable wave of smartphone backlights beaming in my face and spreading through the crowd like some digital plague, this melancholic heart string puller sent the night off among the sea of fan boys, lucky ticket winners and Vans enthusiasts – an excellent tune that beautifully finished the set.