The Strokes: SXSW Concert Review

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
Other than a fairly subtle, circular-and-straightlined light show, not much else has changed since then. 

The New York Band performed at Austin's Auditorium Shores at South By Southwest.

AUSTIN -- Austin's Auditorium Shores -- a festival-like amphitheater by the lake that's by far South By Southwest's biggest venue, and the only one totally free and open to the general public -- was swarming with kids before The Strokes hit the stage. But that's not a derogatory reference to the teenagers in the audience (though there were plenty of those, too), but actual kids: four years old boys on their dad's shoulders. Seven year old girls holding hands with mom. Duos of pre-teens, braces locked, hopefully, eventually, able to retract themselves from each other.

It's amazing that The Strokes have become that band, the first-concert band, especially since it seemed like their career may be over after First Impressions of Earth, the New York band's 2006 album -- and the one that almost did them in, both internally and critically. More amazing is the sheer number of people who came out to see them; after all, they're SXSW veterans, having once upon a time played eensie weensie 6th street venues on their way towards superstardom.

Other than a fairly subtle, circular-and-straightlined light show, not much else has changed since then. They're leather-clad and look like they couldn't care less, and their songs -- all of them -- still mostly sound the same: Albert Hammond Jr. chugging in a one-chord riff while the rhythm section follows suit, singer Julian Casablancas crooning before the slightly-more-explosive chorus. This sameness is both the band's blessing and curse; new songs (like the current single, "Under Cover Of Darkness") and old songs ("Someday") are confused, and audience response comes and goes -- the effect of being in a big band that only has one big song.

So when they finally played that song, "Last Night," the place erupted -- literally -- with a massive fireworks show above Lake Austin, directly behind the band. It was a shining example of the little-band-that-could (and did!). Too bad it's hard to tell from looking whether they even want to have done it at all.

Venue: Auditorium Shores (South by Southwest)