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Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisAnytime a singer from a famous band steps aside for a solo project, they're met with the challenge of creating an album that's just different enough from their full time gig, but needing to resonate with a familiarity factor so as not to alienate longtime listeners. Not only did Julian Casablancas accomplish that balance on last year's Phrazes for the Young (RCA) with a variety-doused record that straddles everything from synth pop to new wave and roots rock, but a current world tour also indicates a widening of his fan base.
With no trouble selling out most theatre venues across the globe, the 31-year-old singer/songwriter and his six piece band evoked a certain sense of confidence across a short but sweet hour split between the album and a handful of Strokes songs. "Ludlow St." served as an example of Casablancas' closet interest in country music, but when adding his backers' garage rock grit and some keyboard dings, it came across with force and ferocity. "River of Brakelights" leaned closest to his day job given the angular strums, but a dance-oriented bass line also evoked the new wave era, minus the dated drawbacks.
Additional synthesizer sweetness came throughout "Left & Right In the Dark" (which evoked the Flock of Seagulls with tongue planted firmly in cheek), alongside a stripped down, keyboard-tipped rendition of the b-side "I'll Try Anything Once." Though it's been four years since The Strokes released an album, fans clearly haven't forgotten about the group, as evidenced by a true to form take on "Hard To Explain," met by a feverish sing-a-long.
Though it was out of season, Casablancas padded out the 60-minute set with the punk-tipped holiday tune "I Wish It Was Christmas Today" and demonstrated further retro pop sensibility throughout "Out of the Blue." Sans a few lackluster midpoints, the set found the solo star in the making shining with a renewed passion and leaving listeners with a brimming curiosity as to what will come next in collaborative contexts.
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