Strokes : Alexandra Palace: Saturday December 6

A stunning triumph saved from the snapping jaws of disapointment

For those Heat readers and post-op lobotomy patients among you, we’ll run through the trivialities first. Three of them wear suits; of the front-line only Nick Valensi opts to rock the Hippy Nephew Of [a]Bruce Springsteen[/a] look instead. Julian comes encumbered with his usual bleary-eyed loucheness as if he’s approaching the end of a world record attempt at impersonating Dean Martin for 72 hours solid. Albert is still all bouncy-haired fabness and geekily hoisted guitar. Every haircut onstage is a tangle of greasy follicals, shampoo’d with pure sex and hand-rinsed in the finest opium resin by harems of nubile art-punk virgins. They play pretty much everything and, during ‘New York City Cops’ Julian sniffs Nick’s arse for no reason. Statistically, according to our exclusive NME exit poll, Fab was the sexiest.

Right. Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk legends. Because this isn’t about trousers or ties or haircuts or A-list girlfriends or drug intakes or rich glamouratti parents or smouldering pretty boy eyebrows or any of that vapid tattle-rag nonsense. This is about greatness. Because, at first listen, ‘Room On Fire’ seems a lazy Xerox of its predecessor, the sound of a band bereft of ideas or vitality, gorging on as much cocaine, cocktails and hot celebrity rumpo action as they can get before the bubble bursts. But beneath the tinny garage clank lurked a svelte beast of subtle beauty at least an equal to ‘Is This It?’: the understated panache of ‘You Talk Way Too Much’, the almost complacent sugar-kiss of ‘Under Control’, the serrated blade fight that is ‘Automatic Stop’. When sprinkled between first album classics like ‘Last Nite’ and ‘The Modern Age’, they merge into a staggering Greatest Hits set by the pupea of a band destined for [a]David Bowie[/a]-esque Godhead status.

Unfortunately, Alexandra Palace proves to be [a]Strokes[/a] metaphorical Shea Stadium – they’re all but swamped by the place. Opening with their only ballad ‘Under Control’ and a slew of mid-paced new album tracks doesn’t help matters, and nor does their obvious mid-tour complacency – it takes a sound failure during ‘Reptilia’ to turn it and