There were a lot more old folks in the crowd at Albert Hammond Jr.’s show Nov. 7 than I would have thought. But then again, old people are always at church and the show was in the basement of Chestnut Street’s First Unitarian Church…it all makes sense now! The intimate venue was a great spot to take in a set of Hammond’s upbeat, guitar-driven indie rock.
Hammond is best known as one of the guitarists from the Strokes. He mainly played rhythm guitar, leaving the solos to Nick Valensi. As such, seeing him as the frontman took some getting used to for me, but Hammond knew exactly what he was doing on the cramped stage in the basement of the First Unitarian Church.
Hammond’s latest album is “Momentary Masters,” which is chock full of frenetic guitar hooks and brisk tempos. Tracks from that album, including “Born Slippy,” “Losing Touch” and “Side Boob,” were incredible to hear live. With three guitarists including Hammond all playing over top each other, each song’s dense guitar parts meshed together to create a wall of sound that hit you right in the chest.
Tracks from earlier in Hammond’s solo career also were great to hear live. I was surprised at how well songs from his 2006 album “Yours to Keep” sounded nine years after their release. “Back to the 101” got the crowd going as the second song of the set. Then “In Transit” gave everyone another boost about halfway through the night. “GfC” is one of my favorite Hammond Jr.’s songs and it was awesome to hear him belt out, “I want my frustrations, to know that you are alright,” in person.
Hammond was at ease on stage and more than willing to strum away on his white Stratocaster while his two bandmates played solo after solo. The highlight of the night may have been the very last song, “Coming to Getcha.” The song ebbs and flows beautifully, building up to epic choruses where Hammond is almost screaming out over top the guitar hook. The song is great enough by itself, but Hammond and his bandmates ended it with an incredible extended outro that really brought the house down.
All in all, Hammond put on a high caliber show, which you would expect from a performer as seasoned as he is. The intimate basement setting just barely contained the fast-and-furious-rock-and-roll Hammond and company, which provided for over an hour and a half. It was a great opportunity to see such a well-known name in such a great venue.