Concert Review: Albert Hammond Jr. @ L’Astral

Like many of my fellow millennials, the guitar stylings of Albert Hammond Jr. served as the soundtrack to my adolescence. Yet that was within the context of The Strokes, a fully different beast from Hammond Jr.’s solo project. His newest work is scrappy, spirited, and more conceptually cohesive than anything his bandmates have put out in a while. Regardless of any stylistic differences, both old school and new school alternative rock fans alike would have enjoyed Monday’s energetic yet intimate show.


The opening act, a five-piece called The Marías, played a groovy and sexy forty-five minute set. I have high standards for openers, having stood through my fair share of forgettable low-fi indie bands in anticipation for the main set, but this was not the case for The Marías. With only one EP out, titled The Supercuts Vol.1, as of this past November, the Los Angeles native band displayed their potential; putting together a set that was equal parts chilled out and danceable psych-soul. Frontwoman María’s bedroomy echoed vocals were matched perfectly by the two surprise trumpet cameos which were an audible crowd pleaser, making even the late-twenty-something filled audience dance.


After The María’s left the stage, there was a quick tech turnaround before the lights went down and a frankly frightening and initially confusing recording played through the speakers, warning about the futility of prayer and religion: off to an abrasive start. Then, Albert Hammond Jr. and his band stormed the stage at exactly nine. As a concert goer, I have a soft spot for punctual acts because it shows a respect from the band to the audience, as well as a dedication to the art and its delivery. From the start Hammond Jr.’s stage presence could not be argued. He’s no longer just the guitarist, part of a unit: he’s the star of the show. Jumping straight into “Caught By My Shadow” off his 2015 LP Momentary Masters, the show started in full force.


Hammond Jr. had an interesting habit of tangling himself in the microphone chord, never seeming to be holding the mic rightside up for more than a minute. This is just one example of his eccentric stage presence. A few songs later, he introduced his new album. Only released about three weeks ago (March 9th), the mention of the record was met with lots of applause and yelling from the crowd. The performance of “Set to Attack” off the aforementioned album kept the energy high. Hammond Jr. spent half of the song singing from atop the amp in the corner of the stage, jumping down periodically. At one point he reached into his pocket, not for a guitar pick, but for (what I’m about ninety percent sure was) a fisherman’s friend cough drop packet and popped one in without missing a word. 

Yet, despite Hammond Jr.’s ability to sing and multitask, sometimes this didn’t extend to the band’s synchronization. Twice there were errors in ending a song all together, yet the band always had witty banter after the glitch so I doubt anyone in the audience minded too much. Many times during the show, the guitarists, bassists, and even Albert Hammond Jr. played facing away from the crowd and in a huddle facing the drummer. This gave a real sense of partnership within the band: you could see them feeding off each-other’s energy.

The set ended with “In Transit” a classic favourite from his 2006 record Yours to Keep. This powerful, danceable track was the perfect song to end a show of mostly new material, bringing together old fans and new to either belt the lyrics or just jump along. 

People say to never meet your heroes and that sometimes things from your childhood should be left in memory. Yet, this artist who I grew up with, lived up to expectations. Hammond Jr. and band delivered an amazing show that both lifelong Strokes fans and new solo fans would enjoy. The mark of a great musician is being able to evolve and change with the times without giving up their unique vision. This concert showed Albert Hammond Jr.’s ability to do just that, and we should all be ready for where he takes his music next.