By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 11, 2006 at 5:19 AM

When The Strokes first played in Milwaukee, it was 2001, the band was riding the almost immediate high wave of success after releasing “Is This It,” and the bulk of the populace who paid any attention to such bands generally fell into one of two very different categories.

There were those adhering to the school of thought that claimed these five New Yorker beat dandies had in fact “saved rock ‘n’ roll” with their fervent post-punk garage revivalism, especially at a time when indie rock seemed to be carrying quite a bit of whiney, emotional baggage.

And then there were, of course, the cynics who believed this hype to be in direct relation to music’s demise, brushing off the band’s lauded comparisons, as if asking, “When did it become more important to sound like the Velvet Underground than to actually be the Velvet Underground?”

Five years later, with two more albums of questionable relevance under its belt, a much less hyped version of The Strokes showed up again to play the Eagles Ballroom. A far cry from the arrogance-riddled 2001 performance -- during which the band paid little mind to its sold-out audience and hid behind its hair for what felt like nothing more than an amped-up turbo version of the album -- Monday night’s performance revealed a band excited to be playing live and sincerely indebted to its fans –- both the diehard and the newcomer.

Dapper as ever in black blazers -- some with ties, some with vintage T-shirts –- and still, admittedly, hiding behind a sea of stylish hair, The Strokes kicked off the evening with a few tracks off this year’s “First Impressions of Earth,” including the jagged hit “Juicebox,” which stands out as a brashy track on an album containing mostly pop songs polished to a Weezer-like sheen.

The lights dramatically cut out at the sudden stop of each song and returned to highlight a charming, if not surprisingly humble, Julian Casablancas -- perpetually leaping at every chance to thank his crowd whole-heartedly for coming out. After a warmly welcomed version of “You Only Live Once,” the band abandoned its new material and, perhaps as a gift of gratitude, or perhaps experiencing the sweet twinge of nostalgia, dove into at least half an hour's worth of "the early stuff."

What started with “Soma” turned into a seven-song gleeful escapade through the very bright middle chunk of “Is This It.” “Someday” was followed by “Alone, Together,” which was followed by “Last Night” -- and the boys continued on in this fashion, breaking the energetic jaunt only once to allow Casablancas to belt out a mostly accurate cover of The Ramones’ “Life’s a Gas.”

In 2001 an uneventful rehash of its album was underwhelming for an overly-hyped band on its debut tour, but five years later, a packed Ballroom’s reaction to those same songs proves the band’s still got a solid grip on its fans -– and relevancy.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”