A friend recently described Japandroids to me as a self-actualized garage band: they have all of the raw nerve energy, the fuzzed out sound, and the youthful desperation of every high school or college band, but with enough talent to make it all listenable and occasionally transcendent.
These talents were on full display Tuesday night for their fantastic sold out show at the 7th Street Entry, the last on their US tour with Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon. The show found Japandroids operating at their highest level, with years of hard work culminating in the tour they were wrapping up.
After toiling for years in their native Vancouver, the duo put all of their money into releasing one full-length album, 2009’s “Post-Nothing,” before giving the project up. The album catapulted Japandroids into indie success, and they embarked on a massive two-year tour to promote it. Their sophomore album “Celebration Rock,” is both a victory lap and an increase in scope for the band, and it’s the best rock record of the year so far.
The ‘Droids could probably pack the First Avenue Mainroom at this point, so it was a treat to see them in the 250-capacity Entry, which is better suited to their sweaty, rowdy rock sound.
The set started a little rocky with “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” which guitarist Brian King told the crowd was a “warm up song.” From there, the show took off. The head banging, guitar stabs and go-for-broke drum fills never let up, even during the band’s supposed slow song, “Continuous Thunder,” which still crackles with an energy most garage bands dream of.
King and drummer David Prowse are like a wild binary star on stage. They orbit each other, bouncing around stage and playing harder and faster until the song threatens to go off the rails. Then, with a quick count off or a moment of eye contact, they veer into a huge sing-along chorus with astounding precision.
Since in was their last show of the tour, the band was especially emotional on Tuesday. Between every song Prowse would earnestly thank the audience and King would talk to the crowd about everything from the tour, from meeting Anthony Bourdain during their recent performance on “Fallon” to their past shows in Minneapolis. King said that when Japandroids played the Entry with Bass Drum of Death last fall, they tested out a lot of material from “Celebration Rock,” and it didn’t go over well.
That might be because so much of the fun at a Japandroids show is the energy they draw from the audience. Nearly every track has a gutsy sing-along chorus, and plenty of “whoa!”s and “oh yeah!”s. With so much well-deserved hype behind “Celebration Rock,” the band had no problem getting the crowd to sing along on Tuesday. This is good because as King mentioned before the record’s opener “Night of Wine and Roses,” these new tracks are more complex than anything on “Post-Nothing,” and push how huge of a sound the band can make with only two members.
The set’s highlight, “the House that Heaven Built” showed this best. Prowse starts the track relatively sedated, adding escalating layers of urgent drum fills to give the illusion of a larger band. During the massive call-and-response chorus, the crowd’s screams nearly drowned out King’s wall of amps.
The band played until they looked completely spent, and by the end of their closing cover “For the Love of Ivy,” King was playing a solo on top of the bass drum, and the rest of Prowse’s set was toppled over. The audience left similarly sweaty and elated. It’s the type of set every garage band wants to deliver, but few can.
The Boys are Leaving Town
Rockers East Vancouver
The Nights of Wine and Roses
The House that Heaven Built
Young Hearts Spark Fire
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