Earlier this month Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. released his fourth full-length solo album, Francis Trouble. The album was inspired by Hammond Jr. learning new details about his stillborn twin brother, Francis, and wondering about whatever connection they may have shared in the womb. Despite the somewhat heavy and emotional topic, the album is bright and energetic. The album sees Albert Hammond Jr. looking and moving forward, while still incorporating a familiar undercurrent of Strokes-like sound that surfaces at times. Francis Trouble could possibly be his best and most accessible effort to date. With the album being greeted by positive reviews out of the gate, Hammond Jr. has hit the road for a Spring tour of North America. We were thrilled to be able to catch the tour when it stopped at U Street Music Hall in Washington DC.
As fans filled the intimate U Street venue, Los Angeles-based psychedelic soul outfit, the Marias took to the stage and started off the evening with “I Like It” from their debut EP Superclean Vol 1. The band led by couple María Zardoya on vocals/guitar and Josh Conway on drums/vocals, entranced the crowd with a sultry mix of jazz laced funk, psychedelic lounge, and soothing dream pop. While the band played through songs like “Only In My Dreams,” “Super Clean,” and “Basta Ya” with an assured tightness and solid confidence, it was Maria’s velvety smooth vocals that floated through the room and noticeably grabbed the attention of the crowd. By the time they closed their concise opening set with “Déjate Llevar,” one of two Spanish-language numbers from their debut EP, it was clear that the Marias had turned more than a few unsuspecting heads.
After a short set change, Albert Hammond Jr., dressed in a maroon suit, and joined by his band came out and kicked off with “Caught By My Shadow” from 2015’s Momentary Masters, followed by “Holiday,” before dipping into the new album with “Set To Attack.” From there the Strokes guitarist, backed by a quartet of talented musicians, was off and running, playing songs pulled from his various solo albums released over the past twelve years. The roughly one hour and change set produced a variety of early highlights including “Rude Customer,” “Side Boob,” “St. Justice,” and “101.” Whether picking up the guitar to effortlessly rip through some of his distinctive anthemic riffs, prowling and pogoing his way around the stage, or leaning out into the audience to belt out a song, Albert Hammond Jr. was every bit the charismatic and engaging frontman. The crowd clearly connected with the energy emanating from the stage and reflected it back with enthusiastic cheering. That connection reached its apex when, during a song midway through the set, Albert stepped off the stage and wandered into the embrace of the crowd, truly blurring the line between artist and audience. After making his way back to the stage, to join his bandmates, Albert Hammond Jr. finished out the set strong, ending with a one-two punch of “Carnival Cruise” and “In Transit,” before returning for a four-song encore.
He may have risen to fame as a member of the Strokes while they toured the World playing to arenas and massive festival crowds, but the intimate show at U Street Music Hall was a solid and downright enjoyable performance that showcased the solo artistic vision that Albert Hammond Jr. has been honing over the last twelve years, and it proved that he has his own voice and its one worth hearing.
Albert Hammond Jr + The Marias @ U Street Music Hall – March 27th 2018