What can I say? How does one describe seeing their favorite band in what many consider the greatest venue on Earth? How about having your voice go hoarse while singing every word to every song with 10,000 other people? On Friday, The Strokes ran through their best songs for the fans that love them so, and got accompanied by a living legend to boot. All of this is far from an ordinary event in one’s day. What words do that justice? None. No words can translate the experience thousands of people had this past weekend.
What I can tell you is that you had to be there. I know the Strokes always blow the roof off of the venues they play, but Friday was special. It was their homecoming, having been away from their city for five long years. Countless acts have formed in that time span, yet none have captured the heart, the soul, or the timeframe in the way the Strokes did. They continue to occupy a special place, and their city was happy to welcome them back. It also served as a precursor to the emotional night that would follow as the much beloved LCD Soundsystem played their swansong underneath the same disco ball. While that was a night to enjoy and relinquish a band into the ether, Friday was the night to rejoice at another band having come back from it. The Strokes have returned, and they are a force to be reckoned with.
Devendra Banhart kicked of the night and his sound was terrible. I was ecstatic when I heard he was playing, as he’s another personal favorite of mine, but MSG massacred his vibe. The freak folk flag was hard to see from anywhere except the pit, and people were still piling in as he was finishing up. Knowing how amazing he is made it sad to see so few people connecting with it. It was completely the venue’s fault, though. He rocked as hard as he could with what he was given, and that’s all a fan can ask for.
After his set, we were getting beer when I heard a keyboard sound checked. The Strokes were using keys? That made sense based on their new album, so it wasn’t a concern at first. Then they started playing “Pump It Up” and I figured it was just music to warm up the crowd (in case you don’t know, this is common at every concert ever). I was wrong. The one and only Elvis Costello had taken the stage and was a surprise opener. It was awesome. The man commanded the audience and was, as usual, a natural. He played three of his hits and made a quick exit, having already played twice that day. At this point, the crowd seemed to be sufficiently warmed up, and that’s a serious understatement. Elvis was even kind enough to join the headliners later for a special version of new song “Taken for a Fool,” featuring a chorus he was born to sing.
So the stadium is filled, The Strokes come out, and they kill it. It’s 2002 again and the last decade of terrible pop is forgotten. The Black Eyed Peas are just three dudes, LCD is prepping their first single, and the world just realized how terrible Nickelback is. Alex Turner is in his room figuring out how to write songs and Jack White has no idea what his little blues rock duo is about to become. For the next two hours, the music world is perfect. If the Clash were known as “the only band that matters,” then the Strokes might be this generation’s version. Just don’t expect them to care enough to acknowledge the fact. They are and continue to be the first great band of the 2000’s, and finally seeing them cements that fact in stone. The last line on new album Angles features Julian Casablancas singing “Don’t try to stop us, get out of the way.” Nothing could be more fitting, and headlining Madison Square Garden is just the beginning of a new era for the Strokes.