Years ago, watching a video of the, then, “completely obscure” Strypes, I said to a close friend of mine, “with due reverence, these boys are the new Rolling Stones, they will be somebody!” A couple of years later I find myself at The Strypes’ concert, only days after their appearance on David Letterman and in the midst of their European tour, here in Hamburg, adoptive homeland of international music, primitive cradle of other young boys wrapped in trendy jackets and inspired by the sacred fire of Rock’n’Roll, the Beatles.
In all my years I have never attended a concert of someone who was younger than me, and on my way to Uebel & Gefährlich in the famous district of St. Pauli, different existential doubts assail me. Am I, with my twenty-five years, that old or are they too young to be this successful? Do I put too many expectations on a band of teenagers or will they amaze me even more?
Concerns aside, I arrive at the huge warehouse in the heart of Hamburg. “The concert will be held on the fourth floor,” says a small poster hanging at the entrance. The dark room, decorated in Victorian style, with the chromatic predominance of black and gold, has, from the smoking room, located in the back of the bar, a breathtaking view of Hamburg. The Elbe, bearer of new fashions and trends from all over the globe directly before me, the city teeming with people extends to its sides.
I wait about half an hour before the opening act by (a great) Pete Macleod – Scottish songwriter – begins. People of all ages start to fill in. But what strikes me most is the large number of teenagers. For a moment my mind is flying back, to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the British Invasion, when young people crowded concert halls in pure ecstasy for a rock band. All this begins to give me an unexpected shot of joy, as if confidence in music was injected directly in my vein. To keep company with these young guys, not to make them feel ashamed, perhaps, dozens of parents mix in. The ones who really have experienced Hamburg’s great rock’n’roll era: kinky scarves, tweed jackets, polka dots shirts all around; all there, waiting for the The Strypes.
Punctually, there they are, determined, loose, and “bad” on stage. In their dark suits, black Rayban for Ross Farrelly, lead singer/harmonica, they begin at a furious pace “What a shame,” the same song that introduced them to the legendary Mr. Letterman. They are shameless, direct, arrogant (in the best sense of the term), and watching them on stage is such a pleasure. Behind those established rockstar movements I can see guys who do not lose the thrill of being on stage. They have fun and enjoy being the center of attention. They look at each other, accomplices sights, laughing and joking with the audience and then, suddenly, they are “bad boys” again. I can’t help but smile.
In front of me there are not young DJs or pop stars who sing on a pre-produced base. In front of me there is a band that is literally tearing down the hall with their Ramones-like 200bmp, arrogant like the primordial Stones and with the class of those who know what they’re doing. They do not need any tricks to put on a show; they just need the four of them, vocals, guitar, drums and bass. It seems that a tornado is breaking down right here on the fourth floor of the Uebel & Gefährlich. They play, they play non-stop. Sly wink with smiles to the girls in the first row and in return they get screams worthy of a “Strypes-mania.” Always giving more and demanding more and more, by themselves and the audience. With the insolence that only a true rocker of his young age can have, Ross Farrelly points out a father “guilty” of not clapping his hands to the rhythm of a song of theirs along with his daughter. He indicates, stares at him, asking to let himself go, until, smiling and amused, even this “old chap” goes back to his youth and begins to clap incessantly. The concert goes fast, tight, just a few breaks, a few speeches. Mostly just to introduce the title of the song, before setting off at full speed, like a runaway train having with the sound of the harmonica its unmistakable whistle. Guitarist Josh McClorey , whips lightning-fast solos, with the movements of a young Keith Richards. Pete O’Hanlon on bass, alternates moments of composure to others in pure rapture. Drummer, Evan Walsh, seems to have a V8 engine in his arms. After little over an hour from the first chords, the Strypes greet the audience and after their thanks stray backstage. Same old story: noisy applauses , a few yells, and they’re back on stage, cheeky and smiling as before. They ask “Do you want another song?” and someone from the audience shouts, “Two!” They laugh, repeating to themselves, “Two.” The song you do not expect (or maybe you!) No Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Robert Johnson. “Uno, dos, tres, cuatros” (with a jump a-la Joey) they start with a breakneck “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones, followed by the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” in which the audience sings aloud the chorus (to be honest the parents were louder than their sons). With thanks to the audience and a “Hamburg is our favorite city in Germany, to be honest, because of the Beatles”, they leave the stage and the lights come on. The elevator, the stairs and the forecourt of the warehouse now are packed with young and beautiful girls, caring fathers with car keys already in hand and guys who, like me, hasten to take one of the last tubes in St. Pauli; but all with a huge smile on our face. I feel faith in music running through my veins. I would love to get home and turn on my amp, full volume, playing until my fingers succumb. Perhaps some youngster, after tonight’s concert, will decide to form a new band instead of wasting time in front of a computer. Maybe some aged father will dust off his almost forgotten guitar for a few hours and feel like a rock star.
“Are they the righteous who will save Gomorrah?” I wonder, between one stop and the other on the U3. Of course they have everything it takes to save rock’n’roll; and everything it takes become immortal. “Hey, hey, my, my, rock and roll will never die”
Vincent is a regular contributor at Nanobot. Currently residing in Hamburg, his passion for music is fueled by his love for live music and the creative process.