LIVE REVIEW: Albert Hammond Jr.

Albert-Hammond-JrIf you’ve heard of The Strokes but not of Albert Hammond Jr., then there is something misguided here. He is The Strokes’ guitar player in addition to being a very friendly face. Just like the vital organs John Frusciante contributed to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hammond must be treated with the same respect. Although he has made side projects since 2006, his popularity didn’t begin to spike until his sophomore album ¿Cómo Te Llama? in 2008. I’m always ecstatic to see solo artists leaving the stables, l and slowly gaining trend. Before kicking off his European tour, Hammond Jr. (not to be confused with his also-musician father), is making stops in the US, which so far have included Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ, and a sold out show at Webster. While I was bummed to have missed the opportunity to catch the latter, I foresaw that his show at Mexicali would be more intimate–proven to me when I met him after the set. You can say his sold out New York show was a blessing incognito.

Mexicali was at its finest- tables scattered a couple feet behind the stage area to accommodate (hip) parents, and people like me, wanting a hot wing or five before dancing our beers away.  The stage area looks like my mom’s beautiful Christmas wreath, metamorphosing in color. Ireland’s five-piece, punk-dance Nightbox opened up, and their crazy energy electrified the crowd. I was standing behind two excited dancing blondes and their surrounding fans, all swaying to the synth and heavy drum beats. The intensity in the room was reaching fever-pitch, and Albert Hammond Jr. wasn’t even on yet.

Intermission was even superb. I found myself with an awesome view of the stage, listening to The Gaslight Anthem, Manchester Orchestra, and Weezer.

If there was one thing I learned, it is that Albert can shred. Well…yes…he is The Stroke’s guitarist and a Stratocaster wizard, but also a performer. Being the front man can prove to be troublesome, but he definitely proved his leadership. Although he didn’t play my personal favorite, “Bright Young Thing” off his Yours to Keep album, the band put together a tremendous set list. Not once was the crowd stagnant; everyone, including the two blondes, were jamming out. It was the perfect time to see him, as his new EP, AHJ, (off his buddy and band-mate Julian Casablanca’s Cult Records) came out last month. We heard old favorites like “In Transit,” “GfC,” “Back to the 101,” “Call and Ambulance,” “Holiday,” and “Hard to Live (in the City)” and new ones that we weren’t so familiar with yet, but bounced like we were. Hammond Jr. masters both guitar and keyboard, but last night was babysitting his signature white Strat. Even despite his throngs of adoring fans, he was still modest- pointing at us, responding to our quick quips, squeamish yells, and drunken yelps.

I must reiterate, that he has a friendly face. Constantly responding to tweets and Instagram posts, I dub him among the neighborly lot. After the show ended, he went right to the merch stand and actually talked to each oncoming fan.
I asked if they call him “Al” or “Bert.” He laughed, “Who’s they?” Come on Al, I know you have a lot of friends.

Listen to Albert Hammond Jr’s “Rude Customer”, off the new EP, here via Soundcloud:

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