August 20, 2023

The Strokes and Angel Olsen played Forest Hills Stadium

New York's very own The Strokes brought Angel Olsen to Queens for the a hometown show at Forest Hills Stadium on a perfect summer evening and delivered a set of the hits.

Taking the stage in the golden hour, Angel Olsen crooned the crowd with her country by way of Twin Peaks tunes that glowed with an extra hue of radiant beauty on a splendid Saturday night. Buzzing synths took her sound towards foreboding edges before her twang pulled things back towards more of an alt-country vibe that she's perfected slowly over her career and in the serene setting of this amphitheater, her sound was booming and rich with expression. "All Mirrors" was a strong opening tune that set up her vibe for the remainder of her all too short set. "This is a brand new song I wrote last night" Angel told the crowd before "Shut Up Kiss Me," a joke she pulls out regularly to keep the crowd on their toes and even with little banter between tracks, it seemed as if Olsen was enjoying her set even as she refrained from playing some of her more recent hits. Her band was tight and helped propel her metallic, rusted twang to a crowd that was ready to give her their full attention. At just over thirty minutes, the set felt like it was over just as soon as it started and didn't all Angel to give her full display which she's been carefully crafting over the years as her rise in popularity continues to allow her to play bigger and often better venues. Still, even with its short timespan, hearing her noir-ish take on country music is always a lovely experience and she set the tone for great night ahead

When the kings of cool took to the stage, the crowd's devotion to the band was fully apparent and the instant admiration for the group that helped put New York City back on the map as the place for rock and roll seemed stronger than ever. Opening with the lead track to the timeless Is This It? was a great way to kick off a night that would clearly focus on the band's best material. Playing one of their longer sets in recent memory (at least for a hometown show), the band peppered in newer tracks between long-time favorites, playing to their plethora of fans who devotedly back even their newest albums which are still better than most critics will lead on, but still fall short of their early glory. However when your debut album is perhaps the greatest of all time, it's really hard to recapture that magic and even with their best efforts, nothing really comes close to the first two records. Still, as the band have proven for years, write an entire album that soundtracked a time and a generation and people will come en mass to see you until the end of time. "Someday" was an early surprise in the night (the third song in the set), but brought the energy to massive heights and once again cemented its status as one of the best. To hear such a perfect song on a beautiful evening outside in New York City felt like a movie moment and assured everyone in attendance that the love for the band can last the tests of time. "We wrote this one after a movie we love" mocked Julian Casablancas before they ripped into "Meet Me in the Bathroom," the track Lizzy Goodman named her excellent book and subsequent documentary after, again highlighting the underrated Room on Fire which they reinforced with a monstrous version of "Reptillia," a track that still sends the crowd into an all-out frenzy as soon as the iconic riff hits and speeds forward, full of rage and determination. For an ultimate crowd pleaser, the band invited Regina Spektor to the stage for their b-side classic "Modern Girls and Old Fashioned Men," a true deep cut that had me buzzing and the crowd absolutely losing their minds as she traded verses with Casablancas for the quirky and unexpected tune that helped turn the night into a real special moment.The band threw things back again with a killer "Soma" and a pumping "Juicebox" that once again revved-up the crowd with its banging riff and thunderous bassline. "We're gonna do one more and then a fake encore thing" Julien once again joked with the crowd before they ripped through "Take It Or Leave It," bringing the first part of the night to an end with a brilliant power and true sign of force. In a surprise twist, Angels was the one album to see no love this evening as the band broke out "Call It Karma, Call It Fate" from 2013's Comedown Machine to kick-start the encore after a brief, impromptu jam that had the crowd blissfully indulging the band with their gimmick before a crushing "Hard to Explain" brought the rock back just in time to close out the night. "This could be our last New York show, you never know!" Julien told the crowd before a lot of boos echoed the stadium and while it sure seemed like a joke (later confirmed by another member of the band), if it was indeed true, they blasted off with a triumphant version of "Last Nite" which sounded the best its ever been and if that worrisome statement does turn out to somehow be true, what a final moment from a band in the city that helped define them as much they did it. There's no The Strokes without New York City and for a brief moment, and certainly to me, there seemed to be no New York City without The Strokes. The later may no longer be the case, but the band and the city are forever intertwined and being able to see them play before family and friends is always a joy and this one felt euphoric beyond compare. If this was it, it was everything it needed to be.

Set list:

01 "Is This It"
02 "The Adults Are Talking"
03 "Someday"
04 "You Only Live Once"
05 "Alone, Together"
06 "Meet Me in the Bathroom"
07 "Ode to the Mets"
08 "Reptilia"
09 "Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men" (w/ Regina Spektor)
10 "Ask Me Anything"
11 "Soma"
12 "Red Light"
13 "Juicebox"
14 "Automatic Stop"
15 "15 Minutes"
16 "Take It or Leave It"
17 "Call It Fate, Call It Karma"
18 "Hard to Explain"
19 "Why Are Sundays So Depressing" [Live debut]
20 "Last Nite"

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