“Unconventional” and “unapologetic”: two perfect words to describe the American rock band The Strokes. That being said, there’s nothing that says “The Strokes” more than performing a New Year’s Eve celebration concert in the middle of April.
New York City-based rockers The Strokes took to the Barclays Center stage on April 6th to celebrate the year 2022. The show was initially planned for – you guessed it – December 31st, 2021. In the wake of the Omicron variant and its accompanying risks, the band postponed their performance; however, this did not stop them from putting on the New Year’s show they promised – this time with a tinge of sarcasm.
The show, now called “New Year, New Date,” featured opening acts Hinds and Mac Demarco, respectively. Both of these acts have played with The Strokes in the past, creating a sense of community for long-time fans, despite the impersonal nature of large arena shows. To fuel a feeling of casual connection even further, frontman Julian Casablancas did what he does best: transparently performing to the masses as if it were 2001 and the Strokes were still finding their footing in Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge. At one point, he called out in an ironic “rock star amping up the arena” tone, implying how foolish he actually finds that behavior and cementing the crowd’s understanding of his “cool guy” attitude.
The Strokes came out to this unpredictable show with an equally unpredictable setlist. The band has recently committed to playing mainly festival shows, featuring very similar setlists. They brought a few surprises to the Barclays Center to shake things up, including “What Ever Happened,” the opening track to their 2003 album Room on Fire, and “Under Cover of Darkness,” which has not been played live since 2016. These surprises were intermixed with both mosh-pit-worthy songs such as “Juicebox” and “Heart in a Cage” and somber anthems like “Eternal Summer” and “Under Control.” They pulled music from all eras of their two-decade-long careers, highlighting the energetic driving force of their hard-hitting tracks and the simplistic, beautiful intricacies of their mellower songs.
Throughout the concert, The Strokes continued playing on the humor of their unfortunately postponed NYE performance. The rescheduled show fell on a Wednesday, so the performance did not stretch through midnight, but the band made sure to still sarcastically celebrate the clock turning to a new year. The band stopped for a fake Times Square ball drop at the end of their set, fully committing to the New Year’s bit with a countdown and confetti. For a brief period, Casablancas even donned a pair of corny neon green light-up “2022” shaped glasses – a New Year’s celebration staple. Their casual humor and awareness of our world’s current unpredictable reality encapsulated the room.
On top of the New Year’s Eve jokes, the Strokes left their attitudes on the industry and its accompanying expectations on the stage. Mid-set, Casablancas unashamedly remixed their popular song “Razorblade” by incorporating synthetic robot-like vocal distortion into new, spiraling melodies. Had this move been pulled in a different environment by another group, the crowd might be confused, but this felt natural. Casual attendees could have guessed that something like that was common from how the band presented themselves throughout the night. Long-time fans sat back and said, “yup, there goes Jules again.” This show once again emphasized that The Strokes have the formula for commercial success and pursuit of creative freedom down perfectly.
The Strokes are a cultural phenomenon that found a great following and commercial success in their early twenties while still carrying the attitude of indie garage rockers through their early forties. They saw the postponement of their New Year’s show as both 1) necessary for public health and 2) the perfect opportunity to create a sarcastic gag while still putting on an entertaining, technically sound performance in true Strokes fashion.
“New Year, New Date” was an event that encompassed everything The Strokes were, are, and will be.