Out of the Blue

Julian Casablancas electrifies Le National with exhilarating performance

Concert review by Denise Audette

The entrancing electronic sound of synthesizers filled the ears of Strokes fans at Le National two Thursdays ago as the band’s frontman Julian Casablancas played the first of two Canadian shows on his solo tour.

On tour since March 23, Casablancas is promoting his debut solo album, Phrazes for the Young. With band The Sick Six backing him up, Julian seemed to have crammed every single one of his Montreal fans into the sold-out venue.

After an eternally long soundcheck, the singer finally walked out onto the stage. At that point, the impatient crowd – composed mostly of static teenagers – was quick to forgive him for the wait. They erupted into the kind of high pitch screams you might expect from a Backstreet Boys concert. With everyone rushing towards the stage, it got pretty sweaty. Everyone looked up smiling expectantly while Casablancas, wasting no time, waved modestly and said a quick hello before breaking into song.

The set was opened with “Ludlow St.”, a laid-back song reflecting on the history and stories of the famous street with said name located in New York, the city where Casablancas grew up.

To avoid becoming a distraction, the lights accompanying the music were kept to a minimum throughout the show, varying mostly between red and blue. Despite the muted lighting, one could still see the feather dangling from Casablancas’s hair, accentuating his playful nature and connection with the crowd.

The band moved into fast-paced “River of Brakelights”, which got the crowd singing along and moving around. Though Phrazes for the Young is Casablancas’s first solo work, fans were quick to familiarize themselves with the music. It was evident that they weren’t only there to see that guy from The Strokes – they were there to see Julian Casablancas.

Also played that night was Casablancas’ first single “11th Dimension”. Punchy and upbeat, this song showcased the wide vocal range of the singer and gave him the chance to bounce all around the stage. The crowd was particularly pleased when the band broke into “Out Of The Blue”, which is definitely a favourite of many. Even though they were not the main attraction of the show, it was nice to see the accompanying musicians having a blast playing alongside Casablancas.

To give the fans that little bit more, they opted to play The Strokes’ song “Hard To Explain” from their album Is This It?, as well as an acoustic rendition of “You Only Live Once” (renamed “I’ll Try Anything Once”) from The Strokes’ First Impressions of Earth. These were both very well received by the crowd, and made the show a bit more enjoyable for concert-goers who were perhaps not as familiar with Casablancas’s solo work.
Finishing the set with “Tourist” at the end of a three-song encore, Casablancas said his final farewell (with the customary few words of French) and the band was off before the crowd knew it. It was a short but sweet set reminding fans of their excitement for the upcoming much-anticipated fourth Strokes album to be released in September of this year.

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