Albert Hammond, Jr. The Observatory 11/19/13
"It was, like, oxycontin and cocaine at 24, 25, 26. and then I became [addicted to] heroin around then," Albert Hammond, Jr. admitted to NME in early September. "So from 26, 27 'til 29. It's not so much that I wasn't in a happy place. I was just... God knows where I was. I was just very high. That's where I was." In the revealing interview, The Strokes guitarist discussed his drug addiction in depth for the first time. And now, four years sober, the songwriter has embarked on his first solo tour since getting clean, and from the crowd's reaction at The Observatory last night, it's been a success.
Last month, Hammond, Jr. released AHJ, an EP to follow his 2006 debut full-length, Yours To Keep and 2008 sophomore effort, ¿Cómo Te Llama?. Released by bandmate Julian Casablancas' label, Cult Records, the new five-song collection sounds oddly reminiscent of The Strokes' front man's own solo material - a blast from the '80s. And though I'm admittedly not all that into the new songs (except "St. Justice," how could you not like that track?), the singer/guitarist couldn't have done a better job translating them into a live setting.
With the help of two additional guitarists, a bassist and drummer, Hammond, Jr.'s songs soared to new heights onstage. Though the thought of three guitar parts may seem overzealous, each seemed to stand out on its own. Crisp, clean guitar tones pierced the air as the band precisely executed each track off the new EP, as well as selections from both of its predecessors (including fan favorites "101," and "Lisa"), and even a cover of The Misfits' "Last Caress."
As he sang, Hammond, Jr. contorted his face to match each song's ethos , many times cocking back his head and clenching his muscles as he passionately screamed into the microphone. During instrumental breaks, he reminded his fans why they fell in love with him over a decade ago by stepping away from the mic and letting his fingers do the talking. The ardor his vocals possessed transferred to his hands as he vigorously hammered his guitar strings, and though he's always been considered a guitar virtuoso, seeing him play clean and sober was awe-inspiring.
Between songs, he humbly thanked the crowd, looking genuinely surprised at the large turnout. He told stories and reached his hands toward his fans whenever possible. Every time he gazed out into the audience, a grin crept over his face. He was finally happy and healthy, and it showed.
Critical Bias: Though I'm not a huge fan of Albert Hammond, Jr.'s new material, everything sounded clear and tight live.
The Crowd: Fans of The Strokes.
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Overheard In The Crowd: Grumbles as security lectured people in the crowd to stop pushing their way up front.
Random Notebook Dump: The show was originally scheduled in The Constellation Room but was moved to The Observatory due to high demand.