Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Julian Casablancas + the Voidz at the Hammerstein Ballroom

Julian Casablancas
Vocalist Julian Casablancas co-founded the Strokes in 1998 in New York City, playing Lower East Side clubs like the Spiral, the Luna Lounge and the Mercury Lounge. Since the release of the Strokes' debut album in 2001, the group sold over five million albums and helped revive the garage rock movement. Casablancas released a solo album in 2009 and formed Julian Casablancas + The Voidz as a side project in 2013. The Voidz consists of Casablancas, guitarists Jeramy "Beardo" Gritter and Amir Yaghmai, keyboardist Jeff Kite, bassist/synthesizer player Jacob "Jake" Bercovici , and drummer Alex Carapetis. The band's debut album, Tyranny, was released on September 23, 2014.

Julian Casablancas + The Voidz headlined the Hammerstein Ballroom tonight and bore little resemblance to the Strokes or even Casablancas' solo material. Even before the Voidz came on stage, the intermission music, comprised of eerie hip hop and tribal sounds, forecasted the forthcoming left-of-center assault. Casablancas' new band came on stage and launched into ambitiously experimental music that was heavy on deep, sprawling grooves, extended hypnotic jams and jarringly odd arrangements. As the musicians exercised most of the heavy lifting, Casablancas often remained in the background with his back to the audience, barely registering a presence. No spotlight ever shone on Casablancas; his silhouette remained in the dark for the entire set. When he sauntered forth to sing, he often crouched from the waist, making it difficult for the audience to get a good look at him. He sang and spoke into a low-fidelity microphone that deliberately muffled his vocals, such that his singing sounded tinny and fuzzy. The Voidz set consisted of nine songs from the band's debut album, plus "River of Brakelights" from Casablancas' solo album, and two Strokes songs, "Ize of the World" and "I'll Try Anything Once" (a variant demo version of the Strokes' "You Only Live Once"). Overall, with all its cascading, dizzying music on the fringe of cohesion, the concert performance at best was eccentric and curious and at worst was a scrappy, avant garde assembly of noise, simply weird for weird's sake.

Visit Julian Casablancas + the Voidz at www.juliancasablancas.com.