Albert Hammond Jr. at the Paradise Rock Club on June 14

A review of Albert Hammond Jr. at the Paradise Rock Club on June 14, 2007

, Staff

Putting the busy work of being a world-touring guitarist for the Strokes on hold, Albert Hammond Jr. is currently riding the wave of his solo debut Yours To Keep. On Thursday night Hammond brought his new gig to the Paradise and showcased his easily accessible pop sound.

The show began with “In Transit,” one Hammond’s strongest and most interesting songs. As he began with his falsetto cry of “Free from it all,” Hammond’s band immediately took to visibly rocking out, especially guitarist/keyboardist Marc Eskenazi, whose gigantic grin was a staple throughout the night. Next up was “Everyone Gets a Star,” which the band reeled off with studio-like precision, ending with Hammond delivering one of his surprisingly few solos of the night in stylish form.

Soon the band moved to a more acoustic feel as Schiltz picked up a ukulele and Hammond an acoustic guitar for “Call an Ambulance.” Despite the theoretically new arrangement, they kept churning out the exact same breezy songs at upbeat tempos. To his credit, Hammond has an uncanny knack for pop melody and the songs managed to seem light and accessible throughout, but the arrangements and lyrics began to blend together as some of his weaker material was exposed. For one thing, Hammond’s song lyrics remain firmly in the realm of pronouns and vague verbs, making them both intrinsically meaningless and universally relatable. His musings on love and loneliness, while they may be delivered with sincerity, lack the specificity to drive the point home.

The band plugged back in for an excellent cover of the Cars “Don’t Cha Stop,” and kept the momentum going as they launched into Hammond’s most successful single “The 101.” The song got the best crowd reception of the night from the Boston crowd, to which Hammond laughingly replied, “scream…screaming good.”

Hammond and company ended with “It’s Hard To Live in the City,” a song he introduced as “tending to be our last.” However, the band came returned for encore as a three piece to deliver a new untitled song. Hammond claimed it was “a little rough with no words and no title,” and seemed to be almost indiscernible from the rest of his material.

Given the way Hammond’s band seemed to share the spotlight on stage, the show seemed hardly like a solo gig for The Strokes guitarist. With guitarists Eskenazi and Steve Schiltz, bassist John Lattanzi and drummer Matt Romano all breaking out their most energetic and playful chops, their energy seemed to engulf Hammond, who focused on his singing for most of the night. It was sad to see such a talented band do so little as the songs lacked the instrumental hooks that the Strokes pull of so well. The band’s easy, tossed-off showmanship and energy eventually boiled over from excitement to downright cheesy. At one point it started to feel like they were less of a band and more like a collection of the worlds greatest Guitar Hero players showing off for their friends.

If anything summed up the show it was the cover of The Cars’ “Don’t Cha Stop.” Played expertly tight by the band, the song’s chorus (“if it makes you feel good, don\’t cha stop don\’t cha stop”) became the perfect mantra for Hammond\’s solo outing. Even if lyrics blend together, stage antics go from badass rocker to slightly cheesy, and accessible melodies begin to bore, the band was clearly having a great time and forced the audience to do the same. Albert might not be breaking new ground here, but as long as it makes him feel good…

Boston’s own The Dead Trees (formerly “Furvis” ) opened the show and nearly stole it with a killer homecoming set. Beginning with an excellent rendition of “Jew Said Grace,” the band’s sound was reminiscent of Terror Twilight-era Pavement with just a hint of Modest Mouse. They broke out a true to the original cover of The Beatles’ “Cry Baby Cry” and ended with “Head Trauma.” Definitely a band to pay attention to, they will headline the Middle East Upstairs room on July 3.

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