Albert Hammond Jr./Living the Dream
Albert Hammond Jr. had burst out of the backstage room at the Middle East onto the stage and immediately noticed a concert-goer at the front of the crowd wearing sunglasses, to which he remarked “oh yeah, you’re definitely going to need sunglasses tonight.” Right from the start, you could tell it was going to be a good one.
This was only my second concert of 2018 and third time seeing Albert in the last 5 years. This time brought me back to the Middle East Downstairs, a 600-person capacity room with a very tight feel given the ultra-low ceiling. I had reached out to Albert’s publicist ahead of the show hoping to secure a photo pass for the show and remarkably, that was all that it took. After a small sorting out at the venue (Albert’s team was top-notch in helping me find my way at first), I was given a crew wrist band which basically allowed me access wherever in the club to do my job. As I first separated from my friends I came with, I felt like I was on a battlefield being as cautious as possible and trying to come to terms with my newly bestowed freedom to roam during the night. I couldn’t believe I was actually living my dream that night.
As I got to meet more photographers (including opening band “The Marias” photographer Max Ziman) I began to settle into things and get more focused. The Marias set was a good warm up and adaptation period for me. Typically at shows, I am in the front row with an easy view for shooting. This time, I was mostly located side-stage and adapting to shooting from new angles to try and tell the story of the night.
By the time Albert came on around 9:15, the Easter Sunday crowd had filled in like a standing-room only church with little room to spare. At one point during the night, he had remarked “you all must not be the religious type.” Whether or not they were, they certainly treated Albert’s music like the gospel for the next 90-ish minutes. The night featured a well-rounded, solo career-spanning set that kept the crowd moving and in delight.
Albert would interact with the crowd both on and off stage that night, occasionally strolling through the crowd during songs like ”Set to Attack”, one of several tracks performed that night off of Albert’s latest solo success, Francis Trouble, his fourth LP outside of the Strokes. Albert’s music didn’t only loosen up the crowd, but also had me dancing and singing along blissfully as I captured the night, especially during my particular AHJ favorite, 2006’s “In Transit.”
Most fans of his are used to seeing Albert typically adorned with his signature white Fender stratocaster. While Albert defers lead duties to Julian Casablancas in his original band, The Strokes, he goes center-stage for his solo efforts - and with that move, Albert has slowly been focusing more on honing his craft as an engaging lead figure. That said, he still found time to sling his faithful axe around his neck and deliver a few licks on the guitar to the fans' delight. Keeping the crowd captivated, Albert moved about the room like a true front-man meant for the bright lights, occasionally flirting with some gymnastics routines on the low-pipelines within his grasp.
After concluding the initial 15 song set, Albert and company returned to the stage for a 4 song encore including a Guided by Voices cover of "Postal Blowfish". After three encore songs went by, strong red lighting with some green accents flooded the stage as he closed out the night with the lead single off of Francis Trouble, “Muted Beatings” - a track initially debuted during a taping of "Conan". The single brought the night to a frantic finish and left the crowd standing around for several minutes after Albert left the stage for the last time, craving more of what he had given them for the last hour and a half.
I’ve been a fan of Albert for the last 12 years and his work has helped shape my musical interests as I’ve grown. With each time I see him, I can see how he has honed his craft further as each performance has been better than the last. His genuine attitude and sincerity on stage has always been inspiring/made an impression on me, and to be able to even just quickly say “great show” to him as he walked off for the final time that night was the cherry on top. Thank you to Albert, his publicist Kelsey Stanker, writer Rob Duguay and Albert's team that helped me out that night in beginning to realize my dream and cover the artists that inspire both myself and so many others.