strokes in mesa, for better or worse... but mostly better
No matter how bad Phoenix seems, there's always Mesa.
(Begin essentializing rant here:) Mesa is the epitome of the ugliness and wastefulness that is urban sprawl. It puts the San Fernando Valley to absolute shame. Once a modest town, Mesa is now a SuperWalmart-sized suburb which doubles as the second largest city in Arizona. It's a one-two punch of 'back to basics' middle America: Mesa boasts a legacy of religious conservatism (the town itself was founded by Mormon pioneers in the mid-19th century) and neo-nuclear families fresh off the latest white flight.
That said, apparently The Strokes prefer Mesa folk over those of us here in postmodern Tucson. Or maybe our music venues were overbooked for March 21. After all, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was playing Solar Culture on the same night. Maybe their booking agent was a little more ambitious. Or just a little more in tune with Tucson audiences.
I mean, let's face it... the Strokes could have easily sold out Tucson's largest (yet still refreshingly intimate) venues, either the Rialto Theatre or TCC Music Hall. Instead, the band parked at the Mesa Amphitheatre where they played their first US tour date that hasn't sold out. Let me put it this way: Amanda, Miguel and I arrived at the venue a half hour after doors open, and the parking lot is fucking empty. I could have thrown a rock (or Miguel) from my car to the security check-in.
All things considered, the Strokes' set was stellar. After waiting out a bunch of hot air from the Eagles of Death Metal, the boys stepped up and played that stage like it was the goddamn Fillmore. If it weren't for a rather stiff crowd, I'd consider it to be the best show I've seen them play... but nothing beats the energy a Bay Area audience.
The setlist went a little something like this:
You Only Live Once
The End Has No End
Life's a Gas
I Can't Win
Heart In a Cage
Hard To Explain
Ize of the World
Trying Your Luck
Ask Me Anything
Vision of Division
Take It Or Leave It
First Impressions of Earth might not be the band's strongest album, but its work makes for the best live performaces. "Ize of the World" and "Vision of Division" were guitar-heavy, bar-none standouts, "You Only Live Once" a swooning kick-off, and the stripped-down simplicity of "Ask Me Anything" eerily emotional.
The band spiced things up with "Life's a Gas," a cover of the Ramones' later work, which was delivered flawlessly. Apparently the song is the B-side to the Strokes's second single off of FIOE, "Heart in a Cage."
I was definitely missing three key Strokes tracks here: "Alone, Together," "The Modern Age," and "15 Minutes," the latter possibly the best off of FIOE, but perhaps too difficult to pull off well live. Amanda was a little upset she didn't get "Razor Blade." In any event, we were hardly left unsatisfied.
I'll always have an obvious bias for the Strokes, but 5 years after the release of The Modern Age EP, the band is undeniably at their best. For one, Julian's sobered up, finally comfortable and grown into his place at the mic. But the longevity of the band as a whole has been most impressive. In 2001, the idea of the Strokes putting out a halfway-decent third album would have been incomprehensible. Now, in 2006, the other bands once credited for ushering in a new, supposed Rock revolution alongside the Strokes-- the Vines, the White Stripes (certainly debatable...), etc.-- have faded/and or if not already been deemed extinct. This can't be a coincidence.
Keep it coming, boys.
(More pics and vid coming soon, courtesy Miguel)