The Strokes are a band doomed to reception by interpretation. Their fans see them as the vintage tee-clad, guitar-slinging saviors of American rock ‘n’ roll. To their followers, The Strokes are the measure by which the barometer of cool is calibrated. Stroke detractors, though, see them as whiny, pretentious, postured, and pampered pretenders to the rock throne. The cool exuded by the band is simply a creation of the marketing hype that surrounds the NYC natives like an all-encompassing shield of banalities and fuzz boxes. On Thursday, Oct. 9, The Strokes played the first of a two-night engagement at Philadelphia’s Tower Theater. While the show did little to dispel any of the issues sounding their place in the American pop culture lexicon, it certainly proved they deserve some attention
The Strokes brought their “Room On Fire Tour” to Philadelphia with an army of hype behind them. Just as their last album, Is This It, was plugged and touted ad nauseam prior to release, the upcoming Room On Fire has already been given the same rave reviews and listening parties, weeks before its street date. The Strokes decided to disregard any worries about playing new, unheard material in front of a ticket-buying audience and split the set between their two albums.
The band moved easily between the two records, and the audience didn’t seem to mind. This might be a testament to The Strokes abilities as performers, or perhaps a nod to the basic interchangeability of the two records.
This, however, is a moot point when dealing with a live show. The Strokes may be one of the more controversially mundane recorded bands of recent years, but on stage they command their songs with confidence. The tight-as-all-hell drumming of “Hard To Explain” was extracted from the album beat for beat. The laid-back cool disdain of “Last Night,” oozed through the room with infectious cynicism. The highlight of the show, however, was the song “Reptillia.” About as close as The Strokes get to sounding mean, “Reptillia’s” sonic dynamic proves that this band is made up of five masters of rhythm unmatched in the rock world.
Whether or not The Strokes will ever actually be able to attain the highs of godlike cultural influence the press eagerly places upon them, their performance proved that such enthusiasm is not entirely unfounded.
Robert James Algeo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.