“Alright! Shall we commence?” croons Julian Casablancas to hordes of adoring fans at The Coronet Theatre in London. Once the leather-adorned prince of the Lower East Side indie scene, Casablancas has now reinvented himself as a quasi punk-rock protestor in double denim that has screamed for better days. He joins The Voidz on stage to perform their recently released album Tyranny.
Countless mutterings of “I hope he plays just one Strokes’ song” could be heard as the audience queue into The Coronet Theatre on Sunday night. It’d be too easy to give a direct comparison of The Strokes’ and The Voidz’s musical styles; they are a genre of their own and its clear Casablancas is experimenting with something new. The record is loud, political, dystopian and very angry: Julian Casablancas + The Voidz are as abrasive on stage as recorded. Opening with ‘Human Sadness’, we are reminded of the album’s wayward synth pop, prog rock sounds, as well as their sneering 1980s punk vibes and vintage video game beats, which surprisingly transfer well live on stage.
The sombre lighting aesthetics parallel the dark, impassioned sonority of Tyranny as Casablancas – a mere silhouette on stage – powers his way through the fuzzy vocals. Industrial beats, film dialogue and sinister synths reverberated throughout the venue. Hunching over his microphone, Casablancas howls his indecipherable lyrics in the way that only he can and the audience takes a moment to appreciate that, even after a decade, he’s still got ‘it’.
Whilst altering effects allowed the voice to be explored and manipulated far more experimentally than in previous work, the intrinsic tenor of the musician remained unobscured. However, tonight wasn’t just about the frontman. During lengthy instrumentals, Casablancas often faded into the shadows, forcing the attention to be fully placed on The Voidz. Guitarists Jeramy Gritten and Amir Yaghmai, keyboard player Jeff Kite, bassist Jacob Bercovici and drummer Alex Carapetis all showcased their rawness, creativity and sheer musicianship during the set. There was a pure focus on the music of the album, rather than the celebrity on stage.
Highlights of the night include the heated head banger ‘M.utually A.ssured D.estruction’, as well as the hypnotic ‘River of Breaklights’, a hit from Casablancas previous solo album Phrazes For The Young. The die-hard Strokes’ fans were lucky enough to hear the much-loved demo ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’ and this emotional interlude was a calm hiatus after the harsh synth beats that preceded it. The night ended with the climatic and exotic ‘Dare I Care’; as masses of people surged forward as Casablancas threw himself into the worshipping hysteric crowd.
If you’re trying to catch that noughties nostalgic magic, you may have missed the mark with this gig, however this is an exciting time to see Casablancas in this new venture. Who knows what he’ll do next? With sceptics won over and die-hard Strokes’ fans satisfied – Julian Casablancas + The Voidz leaves us wanting more and more.