I don’t know Albert Hammond Jr. on purpose. Sure, who doesn’t know The Strokes out of NYC, with that trademark garage rock sound? Of course, Albert is a founding member with a solo project, much like Julian Casablancas with The Voidz. Sometimes, I like to go to a show purposefully not knowing anything about a band. Tonight is one of those nights. I resisted the urge to browse Apple Music or YouTube to see what I had in store. I fought the fine fight and came to l’Astral a virgin, one could say when it comes to this show.
I entered L’Astral to the sounds of The Marias from LA. I couldn’t quite put my finger on their sound. They describe themselves as Psychedelic Soul but add the sultry voice of Maria, who sometimes pays tribute to her Puerto Rican roots by singing in Spanish. For some reason, “Lovefool” from The Cardigans was the band I somewhat associated with this sound, but less of the pop sensibilities, and more of a jazz flavor, especially the drumming. It wasn’t long before I settled into their groove and so did the rest of the audience. For “Ruthless”, a trumpet player joined them to the absolute delight of the crowd. He would return for “Basta Ya”, again to cheers from this seemingly trumpet hungry room. They ended with a bang with their song “Déjate Llevar”.
After the show, Maria said that this was their first time in Canada, landing in Montreal. With no time to be a tourist, they head over to Toronto to continue the tour with Albert Hammond Jr who gave his respects to the band during his set. I love the fact that the setlist has some random picture of one of the member’s dads.
I Like It
Only in My Dreams
Carino (Jennifer Lopez Cover)
I Don’t Know You
Lovergirl (Teena Marie Cover)
The stage is now prepared for the arrival of Albert Hammond Jr. and his band. The lights dim and the Spoken Word Intro of the Doors “The Soft Parade” comes on the PA. “You cannot petition the lord with prayer!” Albert was not aware of the prayers that his parents gave on behalf of his stillborn twin brother – Francis. Only later did he learn about this missing brother that explained the loss he could not pinpoint. Coming to terms with such a tragic event would take deep introspection, but AHJ decided to work through the various feelings related to this missing puzzle piece in his life. Yet, with such a somber subject, tonight was upbeat and celebratory. When you have a black hole inside you of unknown origin, the truth can help fill that hole. This tour and album bring his brother to life, so to speak, in memory and spirit.
Before the first note hits, Albert speaks to the crowd, like we were all his buddies. Happy to have made it past the border patrol, where for some reason they examined his credit cards, he proceeded to burst into “Caught by my shadow”. The song nods dramatically to the Arctic Monkeys sound.
Albert would leave the guitar duties to his band, so he energetically roamed the stage, used the raised drum platform as his own personal acrobatics tool and climbed onto the stacks to sing with happy abandon throughout the night. Occasionally, he would board the Fender Stratocaster to soar on some high flying riffs. Of course, the Strokes sound would bleed into many of the songs but with a twist that is all Albert.
For other songs, such as “Set to Attack”, I would hear an Interpol sound, another NYC band.
During “Side Boob”, Albert got off stage and sang with the fans, going all the way to the back as the sea of fans parted to allow him passage.
“DvsL” felt like it would fit in the Trainspotting soundtrack, with its Lust for Life quality, albeit by a singer that still wears a shirt.
When the band ended their set with “In Transit”, it was clear that the fans were still hungry for more. They chanted “Albert”, till the drummer took the stage and started a very entertaining drum solo that was soon followed by Albert on stage to merge into “Postal Blowfish”.
The show ended with a final burst of energy to match “Muted Beatings” off the latest album.
Albert proved that his repertoire is solid and if The Strokes were to fade away (we hope not), he would rise from the ashes to bring us that feel good rock-n-roll that his garage simply can’t contain. Albert & Company gave us a solid set that showed off his musicianship, stage presence and courage to tackle such a deeply personal journey of self-discovery that Francis would be proud of.
Caught By My Shadow
Set to Attack
Harder harder harder
Far away truths
Tea for Two
Everyone Gets a Star
Rocky’s Late Night