Photo by Joshua Mellin
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Harry is fucking stoked. The Strokes have just walked on stage, half an hour late, and launched straight into “The Modern Age.” He’s moved into a trancelike state, jerking his body half in time to the upbeat of the rhythm guitar like Mick Jagger at a drum and bass night. He holds a 24oz Miller Lite to his mouth, drains the can there, and throws it to the floor, not in anger but in reverie. Then the music moves through him, or at least near him, again. He staggers across the mosh pit that he’s inadvertently created for himself a hundred or so yards from Julian Casablancas’ mic, breaking to sing along to the most important lines and make eye contact with strangers, launching every lyric into their eyes as though they’d been best friends for years. “LET ME GO,” he chants as he glares into my head and past me, a smile taking over his face. He plays Hammond’s solo on an invisible ukulele.
Harry is English—very English—6”3’ blonde hair and a rich man’s jaw. He’s in his early 30s and wears a white t-shirt that features the same logo on the front and back: a pink flamingo smoking a blunt. He recently purchased a farm in Ireland to train horses. He came here with people, but he’s here with everybody. When he came up to me, a complete stranger, ten minutes before The Strokes walked onstage, he asked if I was ready. “It’s going to be fucking legendary,” he said. “Fucking legendary.”
The Strokes spend the next hour and a half vindicating Harry. The band’s opening sequence moves seamlessly through “Soma,” “What Ever Happened,” and “Under Cover of Darkness,” breaking briefly to walk though “Threat of Joy” from their recent Future Present Past EP. (“It’s a new one I reckon,” says Harry, taking the closest thing to a breather he can. “Fuck.”)
And everything fits: Casablancas’ sunglassed faux-ambivalence, Hammond Jr’s concentrated sincerity over each precise solo, Fabrizio Moretti’s silhouetted profile as he hones in on his hi-hat, that pang of nostalgia for the MTV2 videos that the whole thing creates, a reminder of a time a dozen years ago when this was all some sort of revolution.
There’s a sense of euphoria to the whole thing, one that Harry has managed to distill into pure, if unconventional, movement. The Strokes move through their hits one after the other, stacking the set with the best of Is This It and Room On Fire, chopping into new stuff only when everybody’s had their fill. Casablancas’ voice remains effortless, snarling one moment, warming to the soft clatter behind him the next. He’s a showman, same as he ever was, leaning forward onto his mic and trying to consume it.
He saunters through “Reptilia,” cracking his voice up at just the right moments, finding the gravel at the back of his throat, choosing when to snarl and when to walk away. He practically croons “Under Cover of Darkness,” the first song the band employed harmonies for, treating every chorus like a love song.
Harry fucking loves it. When the strangers around him shuffle ecstatically along to the still-perfect “Someday,” he jumps up and down out of time; when the crowd bounces along in time to “Hard to Explain,” he holds his harms aloft in triumph for a full minute, looking at the people around him and soaking it all in. “We made it,” he says to me. “We made it.”
Harry is everything about The Strokes tonight. He’s the 15-year-old kid towards the front in the old Strokes shirt he bought off eBay; he’s the college girls a little further back dancing around in a circle with daisy chains in their hair; he’s the married couple he keeps smashing into who beam from ear to ear and make out at the crescendo of every song.
Because The Strokes aren’t the revolution anymore—they’re just The Strokes. They recreated things in their own image a decade-and-a-bit ago and they have no intention of doing so again. They spend the night proving that the sound isn’t broken and they have no intention of going in and fixing it. They’re the consummate rock ’n’ roll act, here for the moment, pushing all your buttons and boosting your serotonin, contradicting your better instincts and making you smile like a moron.
They encore, appropriately, with “You Only Live Once.” “So,” says Casablancas, “YOLO…” Thousands of dollars of fireworks explode above the stage and everybody marvels, dumb. Harry holds one arm in the air and stares before stumbling back and shouting somewhere near me: “It’s a fucking grandkid moment, this.”
And just for a moment, while Albert Hammond Jr.’s guitar snakes in and out of the track, nobody looks willing to disagree.
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