The last time the Strokes played Chicago’s Metro was in 2001. The band’s debut album “Is This It” was just a few months old, but it had already launched Julian Casablancas and Co. to indie stardom. The now festival anthem and sports arena staple “Reptilia,” which would bring them to new heights, was two years away.
Two decades later, the Strokes returned to the 1,100-cap Wrigleyville venue in support of local politician Kina Collins’ congressional run. Collins is a 31-year-old progressive activist whose platform includes fighting for unions, universal healthcare, body autonomy, gun control and climate solutions. (“Sorry to the Republicans in the crowd,” moaned Casablancas midway through the band’s set.)
Opening the night, Collins delivered an energizing speech that touched on her core issues. “I’m running for Congress because we need representation that gives a damn about us,” Collins said, eliciting roars from the audience. “The congressman I’m running against has been my congressman since I was five years old.”
Collins said she met Casablancas at a house party in New York, where the two apparently hit it off and Collins convinced the singer to perform a “concert for the hardworking folks across the Midwest who are doing what they need to do to elect progressives.” The concert was originally planned for May 30, before voter registration closed, but a COVID case within the band led to a postponement. The Strokes have previously lent support to progressive candidates, playing a benefit show in New York for mayoral candidate Maya Wiley last year and publicly endorsing Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential election.
When the Strokes finally hit the stage — the band was nearly an hour late, which even prompted boos from the crowd — they opened with “Bad Decisions,” a fan-favorite from 2020’s “The New Abnormal.” The band then tore through live standards like “Juicebox,” “You Only Live Once” and “Someday,” as well as some rarer picks including “Automatic Stop” and “Electricityscape.”
The band exited after an electrifying go at “Reptilia” and then returned for a three-song encore.
As fans pitched ideas — “New York City Cops,” “Ode to the Mets” — Casablancas assured the crowd with a laugh that the band had already selected the songs they were going to play.
“Is it a good time or bad time to bring up ‘Eternal Summer’?” he asked rhetorically, referring to the 2020 song that contains lyrics like “Summer is coming, won’t go away / Summer is coming, it’s here to stay” and “They got the remedy / But they won’t let it happen.”
Under its glitzy guitars and Casablancas’ falsetto, the song warns of climate change’s impending destruction. So before diving in, the singer cheekily offered a suggestion: “Maybe there’s something we can do about it… elect non-corporate independent politicians maybe…”
The band turned a recurring joke about Chicago being called “the land of Lincoln” into an extended jam, with Casablancas improvising lyrics that questioned whether Honest Abe had ever even been to the city (editor’s note: he visited often). As Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr.’s guitars picked up pace, the jam seamlessly turned into the intro to “Last Nite,” ending the show on a high note that sent the crowd jumping.
The Democratic primary for Illinois’ 7th Congressional District takes place June 28, 2022.