Gig Review... Julian Casablancas & The Voidz @ First Avenue, Minneapolis, 17th November 2014

As a longtime Strokes superfan, as well as anything yowly crooner Casablancas touches, I can safely admit that on first listen of Tyranny I wasn’t quite sure what to expect live. This would be my first time being in his presence and my teenage self was basically peeing her pants with excitement. The Voidz are currently on their last leg of their North American tour, soon to kick off the European segment in London on December 7.

Critics have said the Voidz’ sound is aggressive, noisy, dense and abrasive—just an overall negative connotation. That may be somewhat true on first listen in regards to the recordings, but what comes through live are the sounds of punk, African rhythms and metal. It took me to a place that I’ve never quite experienced before. Something along the lines of a “Surreal-Sexy- Awesome -Metal- Nightmare in an 80s Video Game” sort of atmosphere. Or maybe even a soundtrack to “Five Nights at Freddy’s.”

The show was not quite sold out at First Ave, most likely due to the aforementioned reviews of the album. The crowd was across the board-- businessmen in suits, soccer moms, hipster ‘fros tamed by 70’s style sweatbands, girls with very short bangs, etc. It’s been 10 years since Casablancas played in Minneapolis, and I was very pleased that he brought on fellow Cult Records artist, and hometown favorite Har Mar Superstar [] to open. Don’t let this guy’s Ron Jeremy-esque look fool you, his funky soul music is off the chain—plus he wears Zubaz, strips down and does headstands on stage. Never heard of Har Mar Superstar? Seriously guys, give him a listen and you can’t help but dance.

A photo posted by Julian Casablancas+The Voidz (@jcandthevoidz) on

Funk, soul , rap and world music played during set up, including “Tamala”, and similar to the opening act. The band began with “Xerox”, “Human Sadness” and “Business Dog,” with no stage decoration other than a neo-medieval chessboard tapestry. The crowd was a bit frigid and expectant, not quite sure what or how they were going to play next. Julian addressed the crowd, “Okey Dokey, so those are some songs,” playing off of the obvious awkwardness. Things heated up soon after though, with riff heavy (First Impressions of Earth-like and my favorites,) “Where No Eagles Fly” and “Crunch Punch” to get everyone headbanging and into the new sound. There was lots of hair-whipping and jumping around at this point.

The Voidz then played “River of Brakelights” from Julian’s solo album Phrazes for the Young, as well as a cover of “Ize of the World” off of First Impressions. These breaks were most likely given for those in the audience who bought a ticket for some semblance of a Strokes show. They went on to play the intense “M.utually A.ssured D.estruction”, “Father Electricity”and “Nintendo Blood.” I was disappointed to see that the crowd thinned out about halfway through. I think that it may just have been a bit much for those who wanted the groovy pop that Casablancas is known for. “Dare I Care” was definitely a highlight for me, it brought in world rhythms on top of the electricity of the guitars that the rest of the songs reflected.

Julian was the only member of the band to not have a spotlight on him the whole night, pretty much shying away from the limelight. Coincidence? Probably not, considering the fate of the Strokes. Even though he is arguably a rock god, it was refreshing to see someone of his caliber let the rest of his band own the stage. He had his back to the audience quite a lot, and from those around me that was annoying in regards to taking photos.

The main take home message from the show is to not believe the hype! JC has said he wanted to make an album like Tyranny since the beginning of his career. The origins for the sound is definitely there, the album is nothing more intense than a juiced up version of “Heart in a Cage” or “Juicebox” with the guitars turned all the way up, and the vocals turned a couple notches down. Julian even uttered at the end of the show, “Check out the new sound that none of the kids are digging these days.” Don’t break his heart, listen to the album twice and you’ll be hooked. If you love early Strokes and Phrazes you will dig the Voidz…it’s the same sound, just a little off kilter.

Written by - Gabrielle Helmin-Clazmer