Julian Casablancas is as cool as ever.
Julian Casablancas is as cool as ever. When The Voidz took the stage at The Met in Pawtucket on June 29th, Casablancas was the last to take position. When the frontman emerged from backstage, the crowd welcomed him with feverish applause; after twenty years in The Strokes, he’s clearly established himself as a legend of indie rock. As Casablancas came to the mic, the band wordlessly launched into “QYURRYUS” (pronounced “Curious”), a single from their stellar 2018 record Virtue. Throughout the space-age riff-rock jam, Casablancas bowed and swayed and leaned, exuding the same effortless swagger visible during The Strokes’ famous 2001 David Letterman performance. With The Voidz, it’s clear Casablancas is having just as much fun as he was in the early days of The Strokes, and that energy transfers into an excellent live show. On record, The Voidz sound like a pop band thrown through an incredibly bizarre filter; the choruses are there, but you have to travel through a wormhole to find them. In a live setting, the reverse is true: each song becomes a collage of wonderfully strange noise pieced together to be recognizable to human ears – in other words, you’re already in the wormhole, fighting your way out. “Where No Eagles Fly” embraced its thrash metal heritage, and the chaos of “M.utually A.ssured D.estruction” threatened to explode at any moment. Virtue track “Black Hole” transformed the space into a rave-like atmosphere for several minutes, to the point where you wouldn’t be blamed for mistaking the band for the likes of Underworld or The Chemical Brothers. Also contributing to the illusion was Casablancas’ frequent use of vocal manipulation throughout the show via special microphones. The radio-friendly side of Casablancas’ songwriting was plenty visible on the night as well, particularly during “Lazy Boy” and “Leave It In My Dreams.” The former features a beachy ska riff, and was the most laid-back moment of the night. “Leave It In My Dreams” – a favorite here at BRU – got the crowd singing along to the refrain “don’t overthink it” with gusto. The audience also demonstrated a love not only for Casablancas and the band’s music, but for cult-figure guitarist Jeramy “Beardo” Gritter, who pulls off a mullet straight out of 1983 like only a true rockstar can. Before the concert ended, The Voidz came out for a three-song encore. After storming through power-ballad “Pointlessness” and the jumpy “Business Dog,” Casablancas left the final number up to a fan vote: between “Pink Ocean” and “Human Sadness,” the crowd ended up choosing the latter. They’ll be glad they did, as the 11-minute epic is the group’s signature song and truly a spectacle both on-record and in person. A multi-part suite, “Human Sadness” is a sort of funhouse take on “Boheman Rhapsody” in the best way; seeing The Voidz rip through each section of the song is one of the greatest live music experiences you can have today. The band took some audio issues during the bridge in stride, with Casablancas improvising lyrics around the feedback and the rest of the band staying on track without a hitch. “Human Sadness” was a climactic conclusion to a remarkably entertaining show, and after seeing The Voidz live, it’s hard to blame Casablancas for redirecting his focus to this newer project.