The Strokes - Manchester Apollo - 25.3.02

Its an easy choice to make. On one hand you have 10 finalists of a karaoke talent show and on the other side you have one of the hottest guitar bands of the new millennium. Of course anyone with any taste has avoided to 2-4-1 formation of Gareth Gates and the wonky jawed grinning chimp Will Young in favour of the New York finishing school class of the Strokes. Of course if any band deserved all this success it was the Strokes. In just 12 months they've gone from playing the toilet circuit to adding a much needed injection of rock & roll to the Brit Awards...and in a sense this is a band at the peak of their career with tickets changing hands outside for up to £100 a time.

Of course being up in Manchester we don't get the glamour and glitz of the London shows with Kate Moss being replaced by Jo Whiley. Of course it doesn't matter one bit as the only person we have eyes for tonight is the one and only Julian Casablancas. After somewhat disappointing support bands in the form of fellow New Yorkers and a weird french synth pop duo, the most exciting band of the noughties hit the stage. All dim lights, New York "don't give a f**k" attitude, dressed head tot toe in Oxfam offshoots with daddies Visa Card in their wallets. The sort of rich guys paying it rough who inhabit the likes of Pulp's "Common People", but are then forgiven for the simple fact that they're the cutest guys you ever seen.

We know the score by now and the only thing letting them down is the lack of new material. "Barely Legal" is played in its entirety with the addition of two new songs. Nothing particularly surprising, but its the Strokes trademark sound that were after so no need to complain. Perhaps the only problem surrounding the Strokes is the hype machine, because when it comes to tonight there's such a weight of expectation on their young shoulders that when they first hit the stage theirs a real sense of let down. Its a weird sight because the audience just stand there, jaws dropped to the floor and yet they can't move their legs. Its like can't dance, won't dance until the trio of "Last Night", "New York City Cops" and "Take It Or Leave It" finish off the set with obligatory "were not about encores so don't stand around waiting for us". As the lights go up drummer is in the centre of security scare following his stage dive into the hands of groping fans.

It took them one hour to remind us why rock & roll is still relevant in the 21st century. It may be second hand for those of us old enough to know better, but who cares when its done this well.

Alex McCann

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