Entertainment, Review

The Strokes Return to England

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By Zoe Turner

After a three hour journey, not without the mess and stress which often follows in the wake of adventure, we finally arrive in Bayswater. It’s the eighteenth of June and the atmosphere is not one of an ordinary day in London. The city swelters. Weaving in and out are passers-by wearing the apt band merchandise. An overwhelming sense of community falls upon us and is welcomed with open arms. The end of a five year wait hangs above our heads, anticipation tightening every muscle in our bodies. The Strokes have returned.

Heading towards the venue – that has seen legendary acts such Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and, more recently, Arcade Fire, grace its stage – we detect the pounding of bass. The Strokes’ first support act, Future Islands, are already halfway through their set. Out of fear of missing the rest, we dance our way over to the imminent sound of ‘Balance’. The park holds an estimated 50,000 people per concert and the bustle is immense. We catch the last few songs as Samuel Herring roars down the mic, sweating into his shirt and swaying on bent knees, as though the music has no mercy on his limbs.

Beck is the second act to warm up the main stage at British Summer Time. The versatility of his tracks is refreshing to hear, lying on the grass at the back of the crowd. People walk to and fro, formulating the buzz in the air. Towards the end of his set, Beck fiercely presents ‘Loser’ to his audience; the classic that everyone listening has been waiting for. As fans chant the renowned line “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” in unison, it’s clear that Beck has done his best to prepare us for the headline slot due to begin within the hour. But would anyone be capable of such preparation?

Finally, The Strokes are ever so fashionably late to the stage, teasing their patient and loyal British audience for a final fifteen minutes. They enter from the right and, acknowledging their thousands of doting fans with a raise of the hand, the boys reflect on the smiling faces beneath them. Julian Casablancas comes out last (but certainly never least), modelling a statement red and yellow streaked mullet especially for the occasion – typical of his character to stand out from the rest. He tells his crowd how happy the quintet are to be back in London and that, in the sunshine, they “barely recognise the place”. Can you imagine basic niceties of your own being responded to with roars and whistles fit to shake the ground? After this short but sweet introduction, The Strokes bring New York to Hyde Park.

Opening the set with the first track of their first album, the band communicate the business they mean here through the measured and timeless ‘Is This It’. There is no messing around during this performance. The majority of the set sees song after song rolling out; the group bounce energetically between all five albums. There is an inevitable emphasis on ‘Is This It’, as their debut remains their most played and popular song even fourteen years on. Personal highlights of the set come in the form of ‘One Way Trigger’ from ‘Comedown Machine’ and, surprisingly, ‘Welcome to Japan’, as well as the lustful ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ from their fourth album ‘Angles’.

The encore is weighted with the heavier tones associated with ‘First Impressions of Earth’ and other favourites ‘Juicebox’ and ‘You Only Live Once’. ‘You Only Live Once’ calls out to the crowd with the heart-rending opening verse significant to so many: “Some people think they’re always right, others are quiet and uptight, others they seem so very nice, inside they might feel sad and wrong’. The Strokes abruptly change the tone and end their set, barely scraping the curfew, with a merciless rendition of ‘Take It or Leave It’. Everyone leaps and shoves against each other as Julian cries across the park. The Strokes theatrically leave us without a goodbye and practically drained of all our existence. They are phenomenal.

Zoe Turner is a second year student at MMU aspiring to write outside of her English studies. She is 19 years old and was born and raised in Staffordshire. Her areas of interest are predominantly music, literature, film and art.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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