The Strokes and the White Stripes Rock Radio City Music Hall

The band gives a backstage tour of their biggest hometown show yet

Julian Casablancas of The Strokes performs at Radio City Music Hall on August 15th, 2002 in New York City, New York. Credit: Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic

Fuckin' A!” said Strokes singer Julian Casablancas when he greeted the 6,000-strong crowd at New York's Radio City Music Hall. It was the fourth and last date of a mini-tour with the White Stripes, and the Strokes' performance was stunning. It had to be — it was the biggest show they had ever played in their own hometown. “We gradually got up to a boom-bastic blowout,” says drummer Fab Moretti who with bassist Nikolai Fraiture gives you a backstage peek at one of the hardest-working bands in the biz. “These shows were really important to us. They were ours.”

The Strokes-White Stripes shows sprang out of mutual admiration. “We said, ‘We'll do a couple of shows at your place [Detroit] and a couple here,’” says Moretti. “We felt a kinship with them. They play with soul and love. We both have passion for what we're doing. Without compromise.” 

“He's cute,” said Casablancas, introducing Jack White  for a surprise appearance on the finale, “New York City Cops.” White strode out midway through the song, plugged in and ripped out a crowd-killing shriek of noise. Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi taught him the song during sound check. “When Jack came out,” says Moretti, “that was the best time I had. It was Jack's idea. He was like, ‘Hey, I really dig that tune. Can I play the solo?’” So he did.

“We wanted to play a fresh venue,” says Moretti. “And we didn't want anyone to be excluded.” “I've never been here,” said Casablancas about Radio City. “It's nice.” It was actually the first time any of the Strokes had been in the legendary hall. “We were blown away,” says Fraiture. “It's too impressive. It messes with all of your senses.”

After the Radio City show, the Strokes went to England, where they were scheduled to headline the massive Reading Festival. In October, they start a U.S. tour and open two shows for the Rolling Stones. “That's crazy!” says Moretti. “It's a dream come true.” Adds Fraiture, “Maybe in five or ten years this will really hit us. Each thing is just crazier than the next. Right now it's just too immediate. You don't know how to make sense of any of it.”

After the show, fans shut down Fifty-first Street, yelling up at the bands in the second-floor dressing room. "By the time we left Radio City, we were pretty toasty," says Fraiture. Both groups headed downtown to a party at Lit, where guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. and Valensi got toastier still. Girlfriends, family, pals, and Beck all showed up. Says Fraiture, "We had to retire a little early. We did a little too much too fast."

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“We were more than nervous,” says Fraiture. How do they get psyched up? “We all get together,” says Moretti. “We go to sound check, relax, shoot the shit, talk about everything and nothing, and smoke some cigarettes. Then around two hours before the show we have a couple of beers, and a couple of beers becomes quite a few beers, then we hang out and tell bad jokes.”

“My dad was there,” says Moretti of the show. “I think everybody's parents were there. It was like a real homecoming-type thing. When you're growing up, you're like, ‘Dad, goddamnit, don't come around my friends. I don't wanna get embarrassed.’ When you get older,” he adds with a laugh, “it's like, ‘Dad, please, come. I miss you so much.’”

Strokes neighbor Ryan Adams also adjourned to the bar at the afterparty. “There's five of us,” says Moretti, “and only one of him. Kudos to him for being able to keep up with us.”

“When she gets up there, she does something magical,” says Moretti about Stripes drummer Meg White. The Strokes are also trying to come up with studio magic of their own. In addition to playing four new songs (“The Way It Is,” “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” “You Talk Way Too Much” and, for lack of a better name, “Ze Newie”), says Fraiture, “Julian's coming in with stuff that we're trying to make enjoyable. We think about the new album every day.”

This story is from the September 19th, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone.