East London in 2023 felt more like New York City in 2003 on Friday night, as fans gathered in Victoria Park for a celebration of indie sleaze headed up by early-2000s garage rock mainstays the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Strokes.
After the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, fronted by a captivating Karen O, closed its set by dedicating “Maps” to the late Sinéad O’Connor, festival goers made the pilgrimage to the other side of the park to catch the night’s main attraction. The Strokes, who have been making the festival rounds this summer, last played the London event in 2019, and the crowd buzzed with anticipation to hear how the band’s set would begin.
Led by singer Julian Casablancas in a leather vest and matching singular glove, the Strokes made their way onto the stage and served up the surprise of “What Ever Happened?,” the moody opening track from 2003’s “Room on Fire.” The next few songs — “Alone, Together,” “The Adults Are Talking,” “Last Nite” and “Call It Fate, Call It Karma” — set the tone for the rest of the show, which was a fascinating combination of the band’s greatest hits and nostalgic rarities.
However, the Strokes’ otherwise electric start was toned down by some sound issues, with chunks of the crowd chanting “Turn it up!” and taking to social media to express frustration with the volume of the mix. But, by the time the band got to “First Impressions of Earth” bangers “Juicebox” and “You Only Live Once” around 20 minutes in, the sound seemed to have somewhat evened out.
“Ode to the Mets” and “The Adults Are Talking” were the only songs the Strokes played from its most recent album, 2020’s “The New Abnormal,” instead devoting the majority of the set to the group’s first three records. Somewhat sadly, nothing was played from 2011’s “Angles,” but fans were treated to two cuts from the lo-fi “Comedown Machine.”
As expected, the Strokes were mostly business during the show, with Casablancas muttering half-formed jokes every once and a while. The rest of the band — lead guitarist Nick Valensi, rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti — eased through the songs like they could play them in their sleep (well, at this point they probably could). But the crowd got to witness a rare moment of creation toward the end of the set as Casablancas asked the audience, “Do you know the song ‘Fallacy?’” The Strokes then launched into an impromptu jam session for the non-existent tune, as Casablancas free-styled ridiculous lyrics like, “I’ve got the boogie and you’ve got the disguise.” The bit went on long enough to wonder if the band was premiering a new song, but Casablancas soon switched gears to cheekily say, “We have one song left before our fake encore.” That was indie rock anthem “Reptilia,” which injected some needed energy back into the crowd as they chanted its iconic guitar line.
Returning after a moment for the encore, Casablancas haphazardly baptized himself with the contents of a red solo cup before launching into two tracks from the Strokes’ seminal debut: “Hard to Explain” and the titular “Is This It.” Though the band was ready to depart — Casablancas added a matter-of-fact “Yep!” after each occurrence of “Is this it” in the song’s chorus — the singer did declare London as “our second home or whatever” before exiting the stage.
See The Strokes’ full set list from All Points East Festival below.
“What Ever Happened?”
“The Adults Are Talking”
“Call It Fate, Call It Karma”
“You Only Live Once”
“Meet Me in the Bathroom”
“Ode to the Mets”
“Ask Me Anything”
“Welcome to Japan”
“Hard to Explain”
“Is This It”