Julian Casablancas grooves at the ‘dise

A review of Julian Casablancas at the Paradise Rock Club on January 8, 2010

, Contributing Writer

Julian Casablancas sold out his show at the Paradise Rock Club on Friday. In many ways this shouldn’t be surprising for the lead singer of one of the most popular and critically appreciated bands of the past decade. However, as The Strokes’ productivity has waned and their recent albums have garnered less notice in recent years, the question of whether or not people would be lining up for his solo show appeared to be a legitimate one. However, the Boston faithful put that talk to rest very quickly by giving the New Yorker a heroes welcome and he returned the favor by delivering a rock solid show.
During the energetic and concise hour long set, there were plenty of screams for requests, including the requisite call for “Freebird” but there were no calls for The Strokes’ classics. Casablancas’ Boston fans were well versed with his solo material from the new album Phrazes for the Young. In fact, when he did turn to The Strokes catalogue later in the set for  a stripped down version of “You Only Live Once” off 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, it was met with the same type of cheers and sing-alongs as his solo material played earlier in the set.
Casablancas was backed by a six-piece band (comprised of a drummer, a percussionist a pair of keyboard players and a couple of guitarists), which gave him a wider palette to pull from. Interestingly, though more complex, many of the tunes sounded like simpler songs beefed up. On “River Of Brakelights” the band sounded huge, stretching out over the intricate keyboard lines and driving rhythms. “Out Of The Blue” provided a good sing-along with its chorus of “oohs” and “Glass” had an almost R&B feel to it at the beginning and they played it both a groove and with some weight behind it. Although certainly not dynamically wide ranging, Casablancas’ new band showed more versatility than The Strokes, with their tendency to move at one speed.
One thing to look for in a solo project is a sound that branches off from the main band and certainly most of Casablancas’ new songs justify their existence. Whereas The Strokes stick to a garage-pop approach to new-wave revivalism, Casablancas’ songs are more keyboard driven and rhythmically much more complex. The one downside to this new band and expanded sound, is that at times, especially in the longer songs, the intricate hooks started to sound a little loose and uneven. Casablancas and the crew lessened this tendency, though, by keeping things tight, rarely falling into anything that felt like a jam. The band might be bigger, but at its best it’s no less immediate and for the most part they were quick-hitting and delivered a punch.

The clear hit of the night was the upbeat and catchy “11th Dimension”. The lead single from Phrazes for the Young, which sounded like a lost hit circa 1980, surprisingly came third in the set. This had the crowd at their most excited and rambunctious. The other true highlight came during the aforementioned cover of The Strokes “You Only Live Once”. The song only featured Casablancas and a keyboardist and proved to be a refreshing and interesting take on these tunes. Casablancas writes much of his material on the keyboard and then arranges for a bigger band setting. Knowing this, seeing one of his songs in its likely original form was all the more rewarding and made an enjoyable night that much more enjoyable.

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