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In concert: Julian Casablancas

Julian CasablancasLast night, Julian Casablancas was not so good at 9:30 club. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Chris Klimek

The New York City that birthed The Strokes' 2001 debut "Is This It?," was as bright and prosperous as the NYC of 23 years earlier -- when Strokes singer/songwriter Julian Casablancas was born there -- was broke, decadent and dangerous. The album managed, improbably, to conjure both Blondie-era risk and pre-9/11 ennui. It's lately resurfaced on just about everyone's list of the aughties' top ten.

But at the 9:30 club Tuesday night, the onetime prodigy who wrote its pitch-perfect caffeinated urban hymns came off as as just another guy who wants to be ... Thom Yorke? Deborah Harry? Casablancas's two-month old solo album, "Phrazes for the Young," suffers from an identity crisis, one that live performance did nothing to solve.

(What ever happened to his songwriting ability? Plus more pictures, after the jump.)

Julian Casablancas

The fourth Stroke to release an extracurricular set during the band's long hibernation, Casablancas aimed for reinvention, leaving the old hits at home. Other than an encore of the Strokes curio "I'll Try Anything Once" and an unnamed dirge he claimed he'd written backstage, there was distended pseudo-Radiohead ("River of Brakelights") and, seriously, pseudo-Miami Sound Machine ("11th Dimension"). But only "Out of the Blue" offered any echo of the grit, or wit, of his old band.

Casablancas brought along a six-piece band, occasionally using two percussionists and two keyboard players to produce a sound as brittle and ersatz as a ringtone. He closed after less than an hour with "4 Chords of the Apocalypse," the kind of awkward white gospel The Killers can occasionally, barely, pull off.

You, Sir, are no Brandon Flowers, and we can't tell you how much it hurts that that's what you're into now.

Julian Casablancas

By David Malitz  |  January 13, 2010; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Julian Casablancas  
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Wow this review is terrible. I think that the short set was a little surprising but there were some moments that really hit home. He has a calm swagger on stage that i especially liked.

Lets see what WaPo does about their linkaphobia when i try and put this one on there.

Posted by: tfranke7373 | January 13, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Way to take one for the team, Chris Klimek! Seeing that show so that we didn't have to.

Posted by: universaltravaler | January 14, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Dear Chris,
I was wondering if you listened to Phrazes For The Young before attending this concert. If you had, you would know that the album consisted of eight songs so naturally Julian would have only been able to play a shorter set. I'm sure that Julian wanted to break out of the normal repetition of the strokes sound. He probably wanted do some experimenting with different musical textures thus explaining why he played around with the obviously 80s synth keyboards. I'm sure he knows what his instruments sound like. Furthermore, I think you are mistaking an ambition to explore Casablancas' own musical abilities for the desire to become some other musician. But yes, Julian does not sound exactly like the strokes, but I do not know if you realize he is not trying to be.
Yours truely,
Disgruntled Julian Casablancas Fan :)

Posted by: ddrummo1 | January 14, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

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