No Ripcord Live Review - The Strokes - Reading Festival (23/8/02)
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The Strokes
Reading Festival (23/8/02)

"Hello my crazy English friends" booms the New York drawl of Julian Casablancas, greeting the drug crazed, alcoholically altered and those who have waited for this moment with rabid anticipation; ever since The Modern Age EP made their feet move like spastic traitors. The rain has long since been blown away by the crowds enthusiasm and all eyes stare stagewards - the party is about to begin and nothing will destroy this short time of unadulterated joy.

The band saunter on stage, way cooler than anyone has the right to be and Casablancas comes in to view, aided by crutches and then throws them away leaving him there, supported only by his own legend. How did we ever survive without this bunch of human cannonballs, wrapped in thrift store rags? It takes a band with extreme confidence in their abilities to start their biggest gig with a new song, but this is exactly what The Strokes do. The Way It Is explodes with all the swaggering glory that has made Rock "n" Roll the saviour of many a young man's soul; ever since Elvis shook like a beautiful demon. Before the song has reached its frenzied climax the assembled masses are singing along in hysterical union and another instant classic is engraved on the hearts of thousands. Next up is the best summer record since the sun was born; Someday races along with simultaneous nostalgia and hope for the future and of course is simply fantastic.

The set is essentially the entirety of Is This It, with the occasional new song buried in the set, just to add to the overall atmosphere of jubilation and triumph. Each song explodes with a familiarity, which is both endearing and totally thrilling - surely these songs, which have been played on an almost daily basis for over a year now, should not feel as utterly exhilarating as they do? The Modern Age, Hard To Explain and Last Nite fly by far too quickly, like all the best feelings that are experienced throughout our lives; the trick is to wring as much pleasure from these fleeting moments of heavenly brilliance, before they are resigned to our fading memories. As Barely Legal disappears into a squeal of feedback, Julian is surprised by a birthday cake and after he is treated to a touching "Happy Birthday" by the crowd, the front row is handed the cake and a flurry of icing soon disappears into the sea of faces. "Where are you Jack, you motherfucker, I know you're there!" cries Casablancas and a lightning bolt of red flashes on to the stage and a certain Jack White arrives to make the moment complete. New York City Cops then erupts, with the frontman refusing the assistance of the chair that he has used throughout the set and as White fires off the guitar solo, the whole spectacle has reached its beautifully victorious peak. With sincere thankyous and a beer soaked salute from the all-conquering heroes, it's all over and we almost weep with stunned pleasure.

As we file slowly into the night, we realise that this is now the end of the summer, but who cares, our memories of this night will live forever.

Reviewed By Mark Mason


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