Concert Review - Albert Hammond Jr.


For all the cool mystery that seems to envelope the members of the Strokes, the Wiltern audience sure learned some intimate facts about guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. In his opening slot for British Bob Dylan disciple Jake Bugg, he admitted to the crowd that he urinates "in pitch black, just like Vin Diesel's movies." Hammond revealed himself in concert to be the heart and soul of the Strokes' ragged rock. His own music was populated with the very same Ramones-meets-Thin-Lizzy down-strokes and harmonics that shot his New York band to fame. But his solo work had a vulnerability that Julian Casablancas just couldn't convey. Hammond dared to be uncool. He might not have the vocal swagger of the Strokes front man, but the fans went nuts when he emerged on the Wiltern stage Friday, Jan. 24 in Los Angeles. The roar was perhaps boosted by the fact that Hammond's backing musicians could pass for other brooding indie rock heroes: One was a Casablancas clone, another the spitting image of Interpol's former bassist Carlos D and yet another was Jack White's doppelganger. The spectacle looked like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction circa 2026. There was a slinkiness to Hammond's set, with tunes sounding like Tears for Fears and the Who. "GFC" played off like Joe Strummer was singing a confessional alongside Cracker's David Lowery. "Hold my head-- it's about to fall, all that is happening," he chirped. Maybe he was still processing this awkward thrust into the spotlight after acting as second banana to Casablancas for all these years. He needn't worry: He has an appeal all his own. When the twinkling drone of "St. Justice" pulsated from the stage, a shrill noise of happiness popped up among the crowd. The head-bobbing song could have easily fit on the Strokes' 2013 album, Comedown Machine-- or their classic releases, for that matter. Hammond has a knack for penning timeless earworms. And they're not just one-note plodders. Some later numbers had the caterwauling theatrics of Dinosaur Jr. with a little "Baba O'Riley" thrown in for good measure. Hammond isn't a showy guitarist; he tended to shrink within the fog of the noise. Maybe he was content with letting the instrument speak for itself.

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