It’s been a funny old year for The Strokes. Despite a hoax suggesting they were going to play an intimate show at Camden’s Dingwalls that caught out many loyal fans, and no real sign we’ll ever see them again as a band, both Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr. have released the finest solo record of their respective careers. With Casablancas set to bring The Voidz to Concorde 2 in November, it was down to Albert Hammond Jr. to set a precedent with his own solo show at the very same venue. Thankfully, and brilliantly, he did just that with a career spanning set, a dose of fun-loving humour, and an incredible amount of exuberance.
With Francis Trouble now under his belt, Albert Hammond Jr. seems to have a new lease of life. When he last played Brighton, albeit in a brilliant set supporting Franz Ferdinand at the Dome, he had the songs and the technical talent but he didn’t quite capture that star persona his songs quite deserved. However, this show was electric and a side of The Strokes star we’ve never seen before. Incredibly passionate and exuding enthusiasm, AHJ looks like he’s loving the solo life.
Support on the night, and for the whole tour, came from the quite frankly brilliant Yassassin. Having seen them rock The Walrus for The Great Escape, I was interested to see how their dynamic, punky sound would translate to a bigger stage. Of course, it was an absolute clinic of passion and fiery wit and, with vocals coming from every member on stage, it was an exciting throwback to the CBGB’s punk scene with an added touch of art-rock for good measure. New single, ‘Wreckless’, especially, is a brilliant slow burner of a song, focussing on lead singer Anna Haara Kristoferson’s incredibly gloomy vocals.
From the moment Hammond Jr. walked on stage, however, the atmosphere was lifted and it was clear he was up for it. “You’ve all unknowingly come to my stand-up show” he cheekily stated before roaring into the set and Francis Trouble opener ‘DvsL’, a three-minute blast that evokes 90s American garage rock. Importantly, AHJ looks wholly confident taking the limelight now, and throughout the night he thunders across the stage, on top of the drum kit, and even into the crowd, as well as convincingly conversing with the crowd all night.
Of course, it’s all about the music and AHJ, with four albums now under his belt, has now got the hits in abundance. An early showcasing of Ahj EP cut ‘Rude Customer’ provided the first intense moshing of the night, while ‘Caught by My Shadow’ gave the crowd their first singalong. Surprisingly, and unusually, however, it’s the newer stuff that gets the biggest reactions on the night. The likes of ‘Set to Attack’, ‘Far Away Truths’, and closing song ‘Muted Beatings’ with their spikey riffs and euphoric sing-alongs are the closest any member of The Strokes has got to replicating the New York band’s terrific indie formula, but AHJ brings enough to proceedings to make it comprehensively his own idiosyncratic style.
Spanning all four albums, as well as a few EP’s, this was further proof that Albert Hammond Jr. is no longer just the guitarist from The Strokes; he’s a fully-fledged frontman in his own right. It’s testament to Albert Hammond Jr.’s ability as a frontman that not once during the night was there a hankering for either Strokes songs or a Casablancas appearance. As solo endeavours go, Hammond Jr.’s is mightily impressive.