It could never be said that Julian Casablancas grew older and boring.
Despite having attracted a fan base so dedicated they verge on disciples (at his Coronet gig, one fan was overheard proudly saying she touched his scalp during a previous crowd-surfing moment), his live material with new band The Voidz is a genre-smashing medley that is surprising and unexpected, if not always cohesive.
Now 36, Casablancas, frontman of The Strokes, was once known as the prince of indie. It's a label he's not overly fond of and he has more recently said that he “does not feel anything” when he performs with his most famous band, who will perform at Primavera Sound in 2015.
Even Casablancas' introductory music was diverse, spanning afrobeat, indie, electro and rock - an accurate precursor of what was to follow. He walked on to a raucous excitable audience, impressive by any Sunday evening standards, and promptly spat on stage - presumably a rock 'n' roll reference. Despite this, he was more engaged with his audience than he ever was with the Strokes - he numerously thanked his crowd for coming and seemed genuinely pleased to be met with such an enthusiastic reaction.
Casablancas could have merrily enjoyed the lucrative fruits of pop-punk band the Strokes and yet he's continued to laboriously work on his solo career. In 2009, he released album Phrazes for the Young, inspired by Oscar Wilde's Phrases and Philosophies for Use of the Young, focusing on indie synth pop. Then came his collaboration with Daft Punk in 2013, in which he provided the lyrics and the vocals to “Instant Crush” - the gig's upbeat opener.
His latest 2014 album, Tyranny, with The Voidz has been his most explorative project to date, covering prog-rock, electro, indie-pop and heavy metal. It's a protest record, he says, although more about morality than politics. Live, it's unpredictable. His voice is in parts muffled by overly heavy synths, but it's still that same distinctive sound that defined many a teenage summer. It's adaptable though, occasionally veering into dark metal howling and then robotic electro.
“Father Electricity” infuses Afrobeat, although it's difficult to decode what's it means. “Human Sadness”, a lengthy 11-minute-long track, is a diary-like seeming stream of consciousness, an experimental mixing of genres. “Where No Eagles Fly” and “Crunch Punch” are more reminiscent of indie Strokes material, but with New Order-style synths. “I'll Try Anything Once”, which appeared on Sofia Coppola's film Somewhere, had a dream-like effect and a slower change of pace. Of all the diverse tracks tonight “Dare I Care” was the biggest surprise - a dark Latina-meets-Bollywood-inspired number in which Casablancas' voice sounded almost unrecognisable.
One of his parting lyrics was “I don't care anymore” and it would seem Casablancas really doesn't. He's exploring and madly pushing his musical horizons, without worrying about their commercial impact. Diversity, unpredictability and plenty of dark intensity, a night with Casablancas makes for an interesting and lively evening indeed.Reuse content