The Strokes/You Am I/Har Mar Superstar - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)

The Strokes / You Am I / Har Mar Superstar

live in Chicago (2002)

live show

Despite the fact that their tour bus had been parked behind the venue since earlier that day, barriers were set up as the bus pulled up in front of the Aragon Ballroom doors late in the afternoon to drop off the band members. Fans waiting in line in an alley swarmed to take photos, greet them and give them presents. One fan came bearing a huge painting of Nick Valensi (guitar), Albert Hammond Jr. (guitar), Nikolai Frature (bass), Fabrizio Moretti (drums), and Julian Casablancas (vocals) she had created for the five.

There were no sightings of the band members walking around outside the Aragon except for the band's drum tech, Matt Romano, with looks similar to Fabrizio Moretti, the Strokes' drummer. A small crowd gathered around him to take pictures and say hello. The show opened with Har Mar Superstar, a middle-aged man with looks resembling Ron Jeremy. Har Mar came bouncing out on stage in a red graduation gown, later unveiling his new white suit bearing his name in neon green and pink spray-paint. With a mini disk player providing his back-up, he performed an energetic sing-and-strip tease. His performance was met with enjoyment and disgust. You need to have a sense of humor to understand him. Drunken hecklers to the right of the stage hollered insults and threw up middle fingers, which Har Mar countered with witty come-backs and saliva. He ended his set in a pair of navy blue briefs, singing while doing a headstand– a true performer.

Next came You Am I: rock and roll from down-under. The band is comprised of Tim Rodgers , Andy Kent (bass), and Mark Tunaley (drums). While being pretty well known in Australia, most of the crowd had never heard of them. They rocked out one song after another gaining a few more fans. They confused me, however. They played cover sounding riffs– one in particular reminded me of The Hives. I wasn't sure if that was their intention... I wasn't sure of anything really. Their schizophrenic songs ranged from full-on cock rock to alt-country. The people around me stood still with arms crossed. A few checked their cell phones to see what time it was. I could see a few people dancing around in the distance though. All in all they left me scratching my head. Before The Strokes' set a giant yellow giraffe was placed in the front-right area of the stage– a prize won during a go-cart competition before their performance in Boston. Girls would scream "I love you Fab!" every time Matt Romano, the drum tech, would cross the stage to tape down set lists and do a drum check.

Then came The Strokes. The crowd pushed forward, lifting me off of the floor. Smoke-drenched, sweaty bodies rubbed up against each other while a clumsy couple awkwardly tried to make out next to me during "Someday." In a muffled New York accent Julian introduced his songs. The only one I could make out was: "This next song is called 'Barely Legal.' Speaking of legal issues, paying women to have sex with me, which I often do, is illegal. It's the flesh trade, more commonly called prostitution." Casablancas is quite the charmer.

They ploughed through their album and introduced three new songs: "Meet Me In the Bathroom," "I Can't Win,"and "Ze Newie." Julian tugged on his hair, beat on his head and clutched his chest delivering soulful vocals with a glassy stare. Nick Valensi played to a frantically drumming Fab Moretti, while looking down– his shaggy hair hanging above his eyes. Albert Hammond Jr. smiled with eyes shut as he strummed along with Nick– he was in the thick of a flu. Nickolai Frature played his bass stiffly as he looked out at the audience through eyes squinted by the stage lights. If you're looking for a band with crazy stage antics– The Strokes aren't it. Their straight forward, honest rock delivered through Casablancas' earnest lyrics and urgent vocals is what will get you.

A good show. No encore though. They don't have enough songs for that yet.