Karen O crashes Julian Casablancas’ own party as the spirit of 00s New York returns to London’s Victoria Park
Nostalgia is an odd thing. Some bands feel so wedded to a time and place that no amount of new music can ever break them out of the history they helped shape. Lean into it and you lose your edge. Steer too far away and everyone starts booing. Whatever the right answer is, The Strokes still seem to be figuring it out at London’s All Points East.
Now more than 20 years on from the post-punk revival they started in New York, The Strokes are back – throwing ‘Last Night’ into the set early because they know they probably should.
This is the unofficial “Meet Me In The Bathroom” day of the festival – with The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s getting the second biggest slot, The Walkmen opening early and BBC 6 Music’s Indie Sleaze DJ stage following Carl Barât and Gary Powell. It’s not all old-school indie, of course (Angel Olsen draws a big chatty crowd, Vacations and Picture Parlour represent the next generation, and Amyl And The Sniffers bring the kind of punk energy that Julian Casablancas never had in the first place), but it’s still mostly a sea of Converse splashing the puddles of Victoria Park.
The best of Is This It mixes with newer tracks that shouldn’t feel like deep cuts but still somehow do (‘The Adults Are Talking’, ‘Welcome To Japan’, ‘Ode To The Mets’). Sound issues cause a few problems, and Julian’s now trademark mumbling between songs gets odder (at one point he addresses the crowd in Italian, maybe not completely sure which European city he’s playing in…), but the highs still eclipse the lows. It’s a big, broad, varied set that spans two decades of a band that hasn’t ever really stopped moving. Electric, smart, game-changing indie that still crackles with life.
What’s less clear is whether or not The Strokes are still happy doing it. ‘Someday’ ends and Casablancas decides to freestyle a new song on stage he calls ‘Fallacy’… Announcing the encore before it happens, he throws a drink in his own face and rattles into ‘Hard To Explain’ and ‘Is This It’, before leaving with a deadpan nod… Is this it? Or is it just irony?
Maybe they don’t want to be the band that everyone loved back in 2001. Maybe they do, and everyone else has grown up around them? Or maybe they just haven’t figured it out as well as Karen O has…
Taking the opposite stage just before The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs arguably had a harder job to do. Last year’s Cool It Down felt just as far from their own 20-year-old debut even as the band feel just as rooted in New York’s noughties new wave – with less hits and more to prove always giving them a steeper hill to climb.
“New York City baby!” cries Karen O, instantly looking like she’s having the time of her life. 2022’s ‘Spitting Off The Edge Of The World’ runs modern synths straight into 2003’s dirty club opener, ‘Rich’ – without nothing ever feeling out of place. ‘Zero’, ‘Sacriledge’, ‘Gold Lion’ and ‘Heads Will Roll’ all fuse seamlessly with ‘Lovebomb’ and ‘Burning’ – old and new feeling just about the same whenever Karen throws everything into them.
‘Maps’ is dedicated to Sinéad O’Connor. ‘Soft Shock’ is dedicated to London. And the closing blitz of ‘Date With A Night’ gets everything right again – feeling not like then and not like now, but something timeless instead.
Photo credit: Burak Cingi / Getty