After almost a full year recording, a few months of reflection, and a handful of secret club dates abroad, the Strokes — still carrying the mantle of New York's Trendiest Rockers — decided to wipe any sweat from their respective foreheads and, on the day of its release, break out some new material from First Impressions of Earth, their third album, at Chicago's intimate Park West venue.
The excitement was palpable Tuesday night, with a capacity crowd packed with fans who had earned their tickets either through last Friday morning's long line or the venue's lottery system. The band appeared suddenly, just after 8:30, with the first few notes of the anthemic "Heart in a Cage." Drummer Fabrizio Moretti descended into the melody with his kick drum, as frontman Julian Casablancas swaggered, decked in some kind of Civil War-inspired coat. (The other members stuck to signature tight pants, tees and Chuck Taylors.) While fans of the band would likely rather have died than been caught screaming and pumping fists, they clearly embraced the new music, with its incredibly crisp sound.
Over the course of the hourlong set, the five-piece interspersed new songs with fan favorites — from their breakout single "Last Nite," off their 2001 debut Is This It, to "Take It or Leave It" and "Reptilia," off 2003's Room on Fire. "It's good to be back," Casablancas told the crowd.
While not even the familiar high notes of 2003's synth-driven "The End Has No End" had a wild effect on the audience, the bouncing bass riff of the new, amped-up single "Juicebox" finally busted the evening wide open, sending arms into the air. Unthinkably, the crowd actually chanted along with the chorus.
That number was shortly followed by what Casablancas called an "oldie but a goodie," "Last Nite," which quickly got people dancing. Impressively, the Strokes managed to move with their progressive new songs while placing them seamlessly beside their more angular older tunes — including "Hard to Explain" and the poppier "Someday."
They maintained that energy level when diving back into Impressions, a surprisingly far-reaching record for a band famous for its cool reserve, with unexpectedly loose and expressive guitar — as on "Razorblade," "15 Minutes" and the instant classic album opener "You Only Live Once."
The Strokes returned for a more pissed-off encore set, kicking off with the we-hate-the-NYPD ditty "New York City Cops" and wrapping up with Is This It's closer "Take It or Leave It."
While a complete U.S. tour has yet to be announced, the band has added more preview gigs over the coming week: Thursday in Seattle, Friday in Los Angeles and next Monday in Atlanta. The Strokes kick off their European tour on January 24th.