A headline set to be proud of
The first major UK festival headline performance the Strokes played was Reading in 2002. At the time they only had one album to their name and I remember watching them that night thinking it was a leap too far. Their set was too short, there weren't enough crowd pleasing anthems for the casual festival observer to stick around for, the atmosphere was flat and the crowd itself was noticeably thinner than Reading headliners were used to.
This headline slot at the O2 Wireless Festival was everything that night in Reading wasn't. The fans were packed in as far as the eye could see. The band now have three albums to their name, so there were enough hit singles to mean that even the interested by-stander was kept reasonably interested, and there was a real strong energy and enthusiasm running through the crowd.
The band took to the stage in the early evening sunshine and launched into the epic 'Heart In A Cage', following with the equally excellent 'You Only Live Once', classic crowd rocker moments they unquestionably are.
The band continued to work through a set with featured a number of tracks from recent album 'First Impressions of Earth', mixing them in with many a hit single which went down a storm. 'Juicebox', 'Hard To Explain' and 'Reptilia' all proving huge favourites, but probably unsurprisingly the best reaction of the night was reserved for 'Last Night'. Every word was belted out across Hyde Park, with a highly charged and fired up crowd bursting into a chorus of 'Football's Comin' Home' afterwards.
Although down at the front the fans were lapping up every minute of it, further back it was a different story. The headliners at the O2 Wireless Festival play for around an hour and a half, and here lay the downfall in this set. Despite the very early finish time of not long past ten, which means nobody has any worries about how to get home, the crowd was thinning noticeably towards the end of the set. Those who stayed saw them play an encore which included a cracking cover of Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wildside' and was rounded off with 'Take It Or Leave It'.
So despite a mixed reaction to their third album, with sales which have been reported as being disappointing resulting in a rumour that they were crossed off the list to headline the Carling Weekend, this was a triumphant return to the top of the bill at a UK festival. Watch this space as it's not unreasonable to expect The Strokes to be back as a headliner somewhere else in 2007.
As for the O2 Wireless Festival, The Strokes certainly got this year's event off to a flyer, laying down the gauntlet for David Gray, Massive Attack, James Blunt and Depeche mode who are the headliners for the other four nights.