Albert Hammond Jr proves he’s more than a stroke of luck

The former Strokes rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr has had a fountain of rock'n'roll showmanship inside him, waiting to burst for decades.

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Dan Soderstrom

Sydney band CLEWS shuffled onstage first, frontwomen and sisters Lily and Grace playing a tight set of alt-rock with disarming confidence. Their vocal harmonies had a striking rawness, while still demonstrating a highly-refined act. With a worldwide management deal signed only a few months prior, they’ll certainly be a band to keep an eye on as the year progresses. While watching, it was hard not to think of the influence of The Strokes and the way they had altered the indie paradigm to open the door for a generation of bands like CLEWS.
A thundering Jim Morrison spoken word announced Hammond’s arrival with a silly bombast: Is everybody in? Is everybody in? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin. WAKE UP!
More reflective of a reverence for rock’n’roll history than any kind of arty pedigree, Hammond emerged with a beaming smile. The singer-guitarist exuded an irrepressible confidence dressed in his gold suit, twirling a microphone cord like it was chewing gum. For many audience members, this gig was the closest they had ever gotten to 2000’s heroes The Strokes, and the near holy reverence in the room was palpable. Every time Hammond swung the white Stratocaster guitar to his hip, with the slight slouch and fan hand pick style, the audience roared. His set contained zero Strokes tracks, but the wiry guitar tone of his former band permeated every song. It’s hardly strange for someone to sound like their own band, and if anything it distilled exactly what Hammond brings to The Strokes’ smorgasbord; unadulterated rock’n’roll.
‘Holiday’ from his low-key debut record Yours to Keep opened the show, immediately demonstrating his band’s locked groove. Hammond – despite being the obvious draw of attention – has never been one to record every musical gear in his solo machine, preferring to work with a band.
‘Set to Attack’, the lead single from Hammond’s latest record Francis Trouble, was an early highlight as he leapt about as if the crowd’s unbridled enthusiasm had frightened him. Soon after, Hammond shed his gilded sports jacket for another patented look; the sleeveless NFL shirt. 
That Francis Trouble marks a milestone in his solo career was a fact confirmed by an unruly audience response to its strikingly earnest rock. The LP felt purpose-built for this intimate live setting; raucous and groove-driven by high emotional stakes. Hammond revelled in his now extensive back-catalogue too, rewarding stalwart fans with choice cuts from Momentary Masters, ¿Cómo te Llama? and Yours to Keep.
A drunken cry of “Oneee Way Shrigger” rang out halfway through the show, to which Hammond shrugged.
“This one is better than ‘One Way Trigger’,” he claimed, rolling into the sultry ‘Rocky’s Late Night’. His syrupy voice was distinct throughout, and played well to these slower deep cuts, even if the audience was less enthused.
Hammond closed the main set with a two punch: a solo guitar rendition of ‘Blue Skies’, that though pretty, was muffled by audience unfamiliar with the track, before the anthemic throes of ‘In Transit’, cooing the appropriate refrain “I’m not going to change, til I want to.”
He thanked the audience for “indulging” him before a quick turnaround to the encore. Hammond’s thrashy rendition of Guided by Voices’ deep cut ‘Postal Blowfish’ was delivered at a feverish pitch while ‘Tea for Two’ and ‘Muted Beatings’ served as the climactic finish. The two tracks’ nervous energy left the crowd with a jittery end to their nights, yelping the words back into Hammond’s ever-near face.
Though he made for an absolutely riotous rock show, it’s hard not to wonder how long it’ll last. Hammond’s first solo record Yours to Keep landed over ten years ago now, and his succeeding releases up to this year have largely served to further refine the tightly wound rock’n’roll sound.
The hour and ten-minute set was diverse enough, but at some point, Hammond may have to face a do-die choice to musically diversify. Nevertheless, Hammond was undeniably charmed by the Melburnian audience, who came already charmed and left enchanted.
“Melbourne is indeed better than Sydney, I can confirm now,” Hammond laughed.
Highlight: Albert’s joy at the huge response to the Francis Trouble singles.
Lowlight: A Strokes deep cut wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Crowd Favourite: ‘Set to Attack’.