The Strokes Plaza of Nations, Vancouver BC - April 16, 2004

The first time the Strokes came to Vancouver, they opened a show for England's Doves at Richard's on Richards. Unknown to all but obscurantist hipsters, the Manhattan quintet quickly won over the crowd, overshadowing the headliners with their bubblegum melodies and studied insouciance. Music aside, what I remember most clearly about that night was seeing Julian Casablancas lay sloppy kisses on two of my friends, neither of whom knew the other and both of whom breathlessly sang praises of the singer's kissing skills for weeks thereafter. As with so many of the critics who deride the Strokes as mere trust fund brats, I approach the band with a scepticism bordering on cynicism, so it's with a grain of salt that these words must be taken: indelible as there melodies are, these guys suck live. In the three years since their Vancouver debut, Julian, Fab, Albert, Nick and Nik — those names! — haven't sharpened their chops at all; it's a laziness that serves only to endear them to their fans. For how much easier is it to identify with a band of ham-fisted haircuts than with a group of nerdish virtuosos? Still, one suspects that even skilled players would struggle inside the Plaza of Nations, a glass-lined mall-like structure in which sound goes to die. Insofar as the Strokes recast Spector-ian girl-pop as the ultimate soundtrack to urban ennui, they are worthy of praise. Of particular interest in this regard is "Someday" (from 2001's Is This It?). A jaunty summertime anthem marked by a gummy bass riff and jangle galore, this is nostalgia of the highest order, but nostalgia all the same. If the Strokes are simply the sum of their influences — and nothing more — what might those bands in their shadow sound like? Best not to consider this, kids, best only to dance.