The Strokes Make Bonnaroo Their Own

Videos by American Songwriter

Midway through the Strokes’ electrifying debut show at Bonnaroo, we had a revelation: what Guns N’ Roses were to kids in the late ’80s, The Strokes are to the kids of the early 2000s. Bear with us here.

Both bands are built on image (danger, swagger, leather) as well as great singles. They both came out with classic first albums that changed the rock ‘n roll landscape (Appetite For Destruction and Is This It), followed up with beloved but inevitably disappointing second discs (Lies and Room On Fire), then got overly ambitious with their third (Use Your Illusion and First Impressions On Earth — how you feel about these records determines how big a fan of the band you truly are). They then took years to record a heavily-hyped followup (Chinese Democracy and Angles), albums that you could either take issue with or fall in love with completely.  They even match up personnel wise (Julian = Axl, Albert = Slash, Nick = Izzy, Nikolia = Duff, Fabrizio = Steven).

While The Strokes failed to cover “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at Bonnaroo on Saturday, they did take the stage late (another GN’R staple). They started off a little hesitantly with “Is This It,” but by the second song, Room On Fire’s “Reptilia,” their set was already on the way to “epic” status. As a festival, Bonnaroo has begun to make it’s own stars — see My Morning Jacket, Mumford & Sons, etc. Play well here, and you’re career could skyrocket to another level.

The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. Discusses Bonnaroo

The Strokes looked and sounded like they’d belonged at Bonnaroo all along. Their songs were edgy and tuneful, heavy and rockin’, but concise enough to hold your attention throughout. Add twin guitars and singalong melodies, and you had a the perfect band for Bonnaroo. New songs like “Under Cover of Darkness,” “Taken For A Fool” and “Gratisfaction” were welcome additions to the hits parade that followed: “Juice Box,” “Last Nite,” “Hard To Explain.” Lead singer Julian Casablancas was in a loose mood, wearing a heavy leather jacket (apparently he wasn’t afraid of getting heat stroke), cracking jokes, and trying out some vocal ad libs. He gave a shout-out to John Waters, who was watching from the wings, and at one point teased drummer Fabrizio Moretti for not paying attention. “Thank you for hanging out and listening to us,” he told the sea of onlookers. “You made a tough choice, but I respect you for it.”

Watch the stream of the show and view the setlist below.

Setlist (

Is This It


Under Cover of Darkness

Hard To Explain


Taken for a Fool

You Only Live Once

You’re So Right

What Ever Happened?


New York City Cops

Life Is Simple in the Moonlight


Last Nite

Under Control

Take It Or Leave It


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  1. Laughable review, standing 15 rows away you could tell Julian seemed to not give a care in the world he was there, turning his back to the crowd every chance he got with extremely little exchanges with the crowd/band. So glad I left half way through the set, Explosions in the Sky were a much better show for your time.

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