STROKES SUMMER TIME | 19th June, MMXV

Gotta be honest. I’ve yet to fully and completely recover both physically and mentally from the intensity and emotions experienced last nite (sorry, couldn’t resist…) at what was my first The Strokes live concert ever. Yes, indeed I took part in the first instalment, or chapter, of corporately-funded Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time in Hyde Park (oh yeah, in case you’re wondering, that is the full official name of the festival, and I’ve already written something about it), a highly anticipated concert series of one-day-off schedules taking place in the marvellous London park which, besides New York indie masters, sees Blur and Kylie Minogue headlining this upcoming Saturday and Sunday as well as rock legends The Who and everyone’s favourite Taylor Swift taking care of next weekend’s outdoor entertainment. The scenario and atmosphere, as partly proven by the stage pic attached at the end of this blogpost, were stunning and fabled, entangling a frame of over 60’000 people wrapped by green vegetation and mega trees (also, on a side note, I can now say for the rest of my life I once went to a gig with Gwyneth Paltrow). Yet it was certainly not the gig’s visual scenography that stood out to me, although it may well certainly be said that it did play a role in leaving me a sense of musical accomplishment after having attended the show.

I had been waiting to catch The Strokes live for over ten years, miserably failing because of a combination of personal bad luck in festivals’ line up-scheduling and the rather unattractive and not necessarily rock & roll-filled profile of my home country of Switzerland. It would be unfair to say that they’ve never played over there though, it’s probably just that for some obscure reasons our paths were not really meant to be crossed. Yet. Yes, because that kind of (enviable) frustration of mine was completely wiped out as soon as too-cool-for-school drummer Fab Moretti hit the charleston for the first time announcing the kick off of Is This It’s self-titled opening track shortly after the indie-veterans took the mega-stage.

I realise now that the impact their live playing has had on me so far it’s of such a magnitude that for me it’s like there’s a pre- and after-Strokes time in my concert-going reality spectrum, and maybe even in my music perception at large. I’m not exaggerating here for blogging effects (if there ever was such a thing, anyway), I truly mean it and I stand by it. Their live rendition of “Is This It” made me comprehend immediately why The Strokes are arguably the most influential guitar-band of the last 15 years, hands down.

The first six songs of the setlist, which I reported below as I’m used to do, had me going insanely excited and got me landed on another planet. Perfect instrumental execution, exemplary stage presence, avoidance of useless crowd-flirting and a perfect voice by frontman Julian Casablancas inaugurated one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to with a perfect combination of musical elements. The inclusion of possibly less mainstream but nonetheless personal favourite tunes “You Talk Way Too Much” as well as “Heart in a Cage” in the first set of songs made of the first 25 minutes of the show the absolute cream of my personal experiencing of it, maybe only in conjunction with the encore trio of tracks that go by the titles of edgy-greasy “Juicebox”, anthemy “You Only Live Once” and delirium-catalyzer “Take It or Leave It”. Despite being a good 50 metres (or about 160 feet, for non-metric readers) away from the New York quintet’s source of magic – I really fought my way through to it, I guarantee you that that was the closest I could get to the stage in order to get back home without a black eye – I felt like I had the right to lose my mind and drown completely into the spectacular climate created by the collective melodic interplay of the band.

Going back to why The Strokes are the biggest guitar-band of the new millennium. It’s not so much their exceptional live performance ability that contributes to that opinion, even though they literally kicked ass on every performative level yesterday, but rather the conviction that the kinds of melodies and sonic ornaments crafted by them, weirdly even more highlighted during a live show, do find their way into so many present musical compositions. May it be Julian’s catchy vocal lines, the overlapping and linear guitar riffs, or even Fab’s straightforward yet unexpected drum fills, they’ve all been somehow converted into so many contemporary bands’ sounds that sometimes we tend to forget that someone also had to come up with those musical patterns in the first place. That someone, as far as I’m concerned and to the extent of the kinds of genres I’m familiar with, is so damn often The Strokes.

Although they didn’t have any new material to disclose live (partly because of Julian’s, rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.‘s and bassist Nikolai Fraiture‘s time-consuming side-projects) and the fact that they kept the selection of newer releases to a pretty scarce number (only “Welcome to Japan”, “Machu Piccu”, “Under Cover of Darkness”, and “One Way Trigger”, i.e. four songs out of eighteen, stood the test of time after 2006’s masterpiece album “First Impressions of Earth”), the legacy The Strokes have brought to the indie-pop-rock music universe is too strong to be neglected. Watching them live for the first time convinced me even more that those saying that without them there would be no Libertines, no Arctic Monkeys, no Franz Ferdinand, and certainly no Bloc Party, indeed know what they’re talking about and they absolutely have a right to say so.

The Strokes’ setlist at Hyde Park, London (18.06.2015):

  1. Is This It 
  2. Barely Legal 
  3. Welcome to Japan 
  4. You Talk Way Too Much 
  5. Someday 
  6. Heart in a Cage 
  7. Hard to Explain 
  8. Vision of Division 
  9. Last Nite
  10. Reptilia
  11. Machu Picchu
  12. Automatic Stop
  13. Under Cover of Darkness
  14. One Way Trigger 
  15. New York City Cops
  1. Juicebox
  2. You Only Live Once
  3. Take It or Leave It

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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A SHOUT OUT TO BRITISH SUMMER TIME IN HYDE PARK | 7th March, MMXV

It may be that it’s just because I’m in London, but I gotta admit that I was quite struck the moment I learned about an amazing festival taking place in the English capital’s iconic Hyde Park at the end of June called British Summer Time (BST). Proudly sponsored by Barclays (come on, somebody’s gotta do it nowadays…), the open air is characterised by a series of one-day off line ups encompassing five different days so far, and according to their website many more acts have yet to be announced. While I myself couldn’t resist not getting my ticket for Thursday 18th June (the day when New Yorker indie veterans The Strokes are headlining supported by Kayne West’s current favourite Beck and Future Islands, amongst others), it’s the whole line up that really stands out in my opinion. Being able to put together headliner acts so diverse and at the same time appealing such as UK-darlings Blur, Kylie Minogue, The Who and Taylor Swift (by the way the only day that’s already sold out, so far) it’s not something that we as audience should take absolutely for granted.

Again, it may be that I’m not used to UK and especially London’s high standards yet, but besides the fact that in addition to such supersonic headliners there are other big shots acting just as “minor appearances” filling up the blank time slots such as Nile Rodgers, Kaiser Chiefs or John Newman, I was truly positively surprised when I got to know about this series of gigs. Of course, the fact that all these fantastic days of music are taking place in beautiful (and hopefully sunny, at least on 18th June) Hyde Park, doesn’t do anything other than amplifying my excitement for it. Also, I really, really like the concept of the festival as being an aggregate of single, scattered days of autonomous line-up which you can deliberately pick for yourself (and of course this applied also to tickets-purchasing, which is always convenient). For, unlike the majority of summer music festivals I know, which normally follow the classic scheme of 4-5 days in a row of musical programme, BST covers the range of over a week with single artists-packages you can select. I honestly think that this kind of formula is probably one that’s gonna be pretty fruitful in the future of music shows and festivals, considering today’s highly busy audiences, issues of location management over a longer period of time, and not least the not always convergent tour schedules of artists. The only disadvantage that I’m aware of in the case of BST is that if someone’s willing to attend more than one single day, there’s no combo-tickets that can be purchased at once for multiple days, as far as I know. However, since the line-ups seem to be rightfully articulated with specific target audiences in mind, it’s probably unlikely that someone would actually take part in more than 2-3 single separate days (at least that’s the case for me, bearing in mind the tickets’ prices).

With that said, I’m really looking forward to seeing The Strokes for the first time after many, many years of admiration and respect. Despite wide criticism not only from established music press, but also from the fans themselves on social media, I actually really enjoyed their last two efforts, 2011’s “Angles”, even though it remains their faintest LP, and in particular “Comedown Machine”, which contains great musical pearls such as “Tap Out”, “50/50” as well as closing gem “Call It Fate, Call It Karma”. After many failed tentatives to catch them live on tour or at some star-filled European summer festivals, probably also influenced by their unpredictable stability as a band over the past decade, BST is finally enabling me to experience The Strokes live. And for this, I really wanted to thank and shout out to them.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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