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Was This It?

The Strokes
Eagles Ballroom
Milwaukee, WI
Oct. 12, 2002
The Strokes

Review by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Phil Bonyata

After more than a year of pummeling media hype the New York rock quintet The Strokes, with frizzed out hair, black leather and a 'don't mess with me' chip on their shoulder, rode into to The Eagles Ballroom last Saturday evening to give Milwaukee a taste of what everybody has been waxing about for so long.
Not that the kids from Brew City didn't know what all the buzz was about, as they packed the venue to capacity to hear the second wave of New York post punk music that The Strokes immortalized on their brilliant, if not altogether new sounding, debut album Is This It.
The Strokes Those who came to hear many of these great songs from the album got exactly what they wanted - high-energy numbers filled with fast and furious primitive punk rhythms, all with a leather-slung-over-the-shoulder and dangling-cigarette matter-of-fact coolness.
But those that were looking for more from these rock revivalists were sadly disappointed. Like their album, the show was ludicrously short - less than an hour, in fact. With buzzsaw precision and freak flags flying, guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. ripped through songs such as the spunky "Someday," "The Modern Age," the punchy "Barely Legal" and their breakthrough hit "Last Night." But, despite the fact that these songs still retained an undeniable vibrance, they were perfunctorily performed almost verbatim to the album, leaving no surprises for their audience. Even the three new numbers, which still had the feel of Is This It, only without as much ambivalent conviction, weren't enough to inject any sense of adventure to the show.
Standing rigid and still, the slackly garbed vocalist Julian Casablancas casually sang into the mic as if ordering a cheeseburger through a Wendy's drive through speaker. While this cooler-than-thou style of deadpan delivery worked wonders for Lou Reed's career, it instead seemed more of a total lack of interest from the singer, who was totally void of any passion. It's not that Julian necessarily needs to be our dog and grovel on the stage like Iggy, but it just might be a little more interesting if the frontman from one of the most talked about bands today didn't look like he was the first exhibit in Madame Tussauds' wax museum.
After a ridiculously brief set and less-than-enthralling performance The Strokes, in true punk fashion, ended with the song "Take It or Leave It.," which, ultimately, was how most felt about the show when leaving.

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