The Strokes / British Sea Power
Cardiff International Arena
Barring a shock Morrissey/Marr reconciliation resulting in the reformation of the Smiths or the re-emergence of Richey Manic after eight years in hiding, the Strokes are pretty much as major news as it gets in the world of indie. The band's recent jaunt to Blighty has been widely touted as the biggest musical event of the year, and the arena shows sold out within minutes.
Support act British Sea Power are not your typical indie collective. The Brighton mentalists' bassist recently injured his hand after cutting a beech tree for the band's stage deco, stuffed birds adorn the amps and the madness reaches a peak when a giant bear (no, we're not joking) invades the stage at the end of BSP's set. Despite their otherworldly quirkiness, the band's music prevails, a pleasurable cross between Echo & the Bunnymen, Doves and Interpol overdosing on Prozac.
Branded as the saviours of guitar music by their ever-adoring fans, yet labelled 'copyists' and 'retro-rock-rip-offs' by their critics, the thrift-store raiding five piece which is the Strokes kick off with I Can't Win, the bounciest, most jovial track from their new album Room On Fire. Looking as sharp as ever, Julian Casablancas wears a Libertine-style military jacket, whilst guitarist Nick Valensi sports a rather fetching pink tie alongside his sky blue shirt. As the band race through their hour-long set, the pit crew are kept busy, especially during fan favourites Last Nite, 12.51 and Soma as several fans are dragged from the crowd mainly due to dehydration.
Of the new stuff, The End Has No End manages to cope with thankless task of musically filling the cavernous, atmospherically vacuumed arena with its textured, keyboard-imitating guitars, whilst when Casablancas sings "I wanna be forgotten / and I don't wanna be reminded" in What Ever Happened?, you find it very hard to believe him as he continues to soak up the crowd's adoration as much as possible. Clearly not the actions of a man who claims he wants to be forgotten. Elsewhere, new single Reptilia sounds like a well-toured stalwart, and Under Control encapsulates everything there is to love about the Strokes' effortless suaveness and NYC cool, - the sauntering guitar chords, Julian's trademark drawl and Fab Moretti's rigid, machine-like drumming.
As the customary set-closer Take It Or Leave It fizzles out, despite the relatively short show, it is plain to see that everyone in the venue has just witnessed the performance of a world-class band in their prime. Who would have thought this time three years ago that New York garage/new wave would be the big thing and that a band called the Strokes would be well on their way to becoming bona-fide superstars? How times change.