The Strokes @ Alexandra Palace, London, 5th December 2003

The tickets for these gigs sold out in roughly three minutes and touts are offering astronomical sums for entry outside this remote venue in north London. It’s fair to say the hype surrounding this New York band hasn’t died down, they’re still the hottest property in rock ‘n’ roll.

By the time the supporting British Sea Power depart the stage, the excitement level is simply immeasurable. This is the first time that Casablancas and co. have toured these shores since the summer of 2002, and many diehard fans have had to placate doubtless withdrawl symptoms with sub-standard, lacklustre alternatives (Jet, anyone?). At 9.30pm the lights go down and the wait is finally over. The Strokes are back. The band burst into the awesome new single ‘Reptilia’, arguably the heaviest thing they’ve ever produced. The guitars are in full flow, and we know from here on in that it’s going to be a memorable set.

Things are slowed down with ‘Under Control’, a soulful, reggae influenced track that displays to any doubters that The Strokes are far from a one-dimensional garage rock outfit. Dancefloor friendly anthem ‘Last Nite’ is slipped in early on, and witnesses David Brent esque moves from the lagered up crowd.

In the middle of the set, New York based singer songwriter Regina Spektor is ushered on stage, with Casablancas eloquently announcing ‘Let’s do this shit’. By this he means a rendition of their recently recorded collaboration (Understood to be the ‘B’ side to ‘Reptilia’) – Simply titled ‘Regina’s Song’ on the setlist, its eerie guitar riff and Spektor’s soaring vocals make this another great Strokes track. Well what were we expecting, a dud?

The staples from the debut album like ‘New York City Cops’, ‘Hard To Explain’ and ‘Someday’ are included - All of them sounding tighter than ever before. It’s amazing what two critically acclaimed albums and A-list Hollywood girlfriends can do to a band. They’re churning out timeless rock ‘n’ roll classics at will and having the time of their lives in doing so, the permanent grin on Albert Hammond Jr’s face a testament to this.

The band introduce ‘Take It Or Leave It’ as their last song. It’s common knowledge by now that The Strokes don’t trade in encores, but Casablancas halts the departing crowd by declaring that he’s ‘A fucking liar’. Indeed, there is one more treat in store. The band start playing ‘Clampdown’, a Clash classic in a tribute to the late Joe Strummer. The Strokes covering The Clash in London. Simply magical.

Set List:

  • Reptilia

  • Under Control

  • What Ever Happened?

  • Alone, Together

  • Last Nite

  • I Can't Win

  • The Modern Age

  • 12:51

  • New York City Cops

  • You Talk Way Too Much

  • Someday

  • Regina's Song

  • Hard To Explain

  • The End Has No End

  • Automatic Stop

  • Soma

  • Take It Or Leave It

  • Clampdown

    Jeremy Lloyd