Concert Review: Julian Casablancas at the Pageant, April 26, 2010

Decked out in tight red pants and patent leather jacket, and sporting a feather in his hair, Julian Casablancas worked the Pageant’s crowd into a hipster frenzy as he and his sextet produced a rich, beat-driven sound, drawing largely from his solo debut Phrazes for the Young.

While the opening of the set was a bit of a dud with “Ludlow Street” (slow songs to open a dance/pop show = not the best plan), the brief misstep was forgotten as the show truly began with “River of Brake Lights,” which led into one of two Strokes songs played Monday night: “Hard to Explain” turned the pit into the dance party it continued to be for the remainder of the 13-song set. Strokes song number 2 was a somber piano rendition of “I’ll Try Anything,” which provided one of the night’s many sing-along opportunities.

Casablancas, ever the showman, even busted out the seasonal track, “I Wish it was Christmas Today,” capping off an 8-song frenzy in the first part of the set. After a brief exit from the stage, the band returned, with the singer telling tales of walking down Delmar Boulevard’s “Walk of Fame,” praising us St. Louisans for our good breeding.

After a rather tongue-in-cheek introduction, Casablancas worked the crowd into a Courtney-Coxesque, bad-’80s dance with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” (personal bias: I’m a huge Springsteen fan, so this was probably the highlight of the evening for me).

The opener Haim, a band composed of 3 sisters sharing the front of the stage and vocal duties, deserves more than a mention. The sisters demonstrated some serious show(wo)manship and a flat-out ability to play rock & roll (Danielle Haim also performed with Casablancas’ rhythm section). Vocals and styles of music ranged from Patti Smith to Chrissie Hynde – two excellent role models. While the turnout on the floor was sparse for the opener, (I’m guessing the issue was the pit being 21 and up), the Haim sisters blasted their way through songs off their yet to be released album, which is currently in the mixing process.

While there are only a few more stops on this tour, I encourage concertgoers on the remaining dates to arrive early and take in what is all too rare these days: an honestly good opening act. Also, be sure to say hi to their mom who runs Hain’s merch table. The band is truly a family affair.

Setlist:

1. Ludlow Street
2. River of Brake Lights
3. Hard to Explain (The Strokes)
4. (new track given no name)
5. 11th Dimension
6. I’ll Try Anything (The Strokes)
7. Left & Right in the Dark
8. I Wish it was Christmas Today
9. Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)
10. Out of the Blue
11. 4 Chords of the Apocalypse
12. Glass
13. Tourist

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