review by Sheryl Witlen
photos by Nicole Steinberg
In New York, it never will go out of style to host secret invite-only shows. People love getting invited to them, bands love playing them, and for the lucky few super fans who get to sneak in, they can be someone’s once in a lifetime experience. Albert Hammond, Jr.’s performance last Tuesday at the Mercury Lounge was one such event.
By now it is well known how Ryan Gentles, then a talent buyer at this same legendary club on Houston Street, discovered The Strokes, became their manager and, well, the rest is history. Throughout the band’s rise to fame in the last eight years or so, Julian Casablancas has always been a charismatic frontman, but dapper-suited gentleman guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. never failed to steal the spotlight while jamming from the side of the stage alongside the stoic Nickolai Fraiture and the adept Nick Valensi.
With news of Hammond’s wish to go it alone and play his cards at a solo album, music industry cronies and fans alike were delighted. His first album, Yours To Keep, burst forth with familiar rhythms and refreshing spirit. As a frontman himself, Albert toured tirelessly, starting off on the ground level all over again by performing in small venues here and in Europe. With each performance and interview, he greeted his fans with affection and genuinely seemed affected by the audience’s enthusiasm and acceptance. It was surprising to all to see a member of a band often scorned for being untouchable and aloof actually having fun.
On Tuesday night, returning to the Mercury Lounge, Hammond was definitely having fun and still going it alone — for one song at least. Commencing the occasion by climbing onto a couch, illuminated only by the flashing of the cameras circling below and armed with his guitar, he glided into “Blue Skies.” After that, all the pieces fell into place as he made his way to the stage where fellow bandmates, Matt Romano, Marc Philippe Eskenazi, and Josh Lattanzi, took their places around him. On this, his second-solo release, Hammond strips away the Strokes-y melodies and takes a turn with a more effortless, rock and blues influenced fusion. The new songs sounded rough and edgy, breaking away from “Holiday” and “101” with tracks “Lucky” and “GFC”, which get back to the grit and inspiration of old New York in a way that is both daring and rejuvenating. Whereas he could have comfortably continued to effectively produce album upon album of his debut’s signature sound, with ¿Cómo Te Llama? he goes back to the beginning again and proves to the music community and the world that we have barely even begun to understand what he has in store for his listeners in the future. For this, we are all incredibly lucky. Thank you, Albert.
Flickrshow will appear here!
Albert Hammond, Jr., with The Postelles, live @ Mercury Lounge, NYC 7/1/08