Review – Julian Casablancas at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver Nov 23 2009
– review by Tom McSorely/photo by Jordana Meilleur
Touring in support of his much anticipated solo album Phrazes for the Young, Julian Casablancas played an intimate show for an appreciative audience at the Commodore Ballroom.
The Strokes frontman hit the stage with a six-piece band and instantly jumped into “Out of the Blue”, a heavily compressed wall of sound with soothing oohs and ahhs that are set amidst the swirl of ’60s-inspired guitar riffs. Those expecting a Strokes concert are in the wrong place, and not just because some of the main characters were missing.
Casablancas’ solo venture experiments with drum machines, synths, and violins – a far cry from the stripped-down, throwback rock ‘n’ roll that made the fashion model scion’s New York City band famous.
This is no more apparent then in the bouncy pop-tastic lead single “11th dimension”, in which an uncharacteristically happy Casablancas coos vocals over a keyboard-heavy track that has an undeniable ’80s feel. Shades of country can be heard in “Ludlow St”, a bluesy, ambling ode to Oscar Wilde, which further attests to the experimental nature of the singer’s new direction.
I couldn’t help but feel a tad disappointed with the now-jovial, now-L.A. resident. A trademark snarl, a stage temper tantrum, any sort of rebellious act that might add some epic coolness to Casablancas, were absent. His hiatus from the Strokes and subsequent marriage seem to have tamed the man that once stormed off the stage during a David Letterman performance.
To be fair, Casablancas delivered an engaging set showcasing the kind of musical creativity that would have been out of place within a Strokes show. Unfortunately, his watered-down intensity left me hankering for a Fab Moretti drum solo.