Japandroids at the Metro | Photos and review
The past year has been kind to Vancouver drum-and-guitar duo Japandroids, which has found new levels of success off the back of its newest LP, Celebration Rock, the spirited follow-up to the gate-crashing debut Post-Nothing. In the midst of a months-long tour (which has already seen numerous Chicago club and festival appearances), the band returned for a sold-out night at the Metro to prove its larger-than-life take on anthemic meat-and-potatoes postpunk still has staying power.
Scheduled openers DIIV, which had been touring with Japandroids, dropped out of the tour's last few dates (the Chicago show included) in order to play The Late Show with David Letterman and a few shows at the Brooklyn Bowl, leaving singer-songwriter David Vandervelde and his band to fill the opening slot. Vandervelde’s set was a blend of soaring guitar heroics and confessional ballads, with his accompanying band providing a slow-motion groove that put the band in ’70s southern-rock territory at times, and more recent strains of stoner rock at others.
Japandroids's singer/guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse strolled onstage promptly at ten o’clock to bright stage lighting and the voice of Rick Ross bellowing “Tupac Back.” The wiry King welcomed the crowd, strutting in front of his three full stacks of amplifiers and allowing himself the majority of the stage to thrash about. Prowse, laughing off a few “Hedo Turkoglu” heckles (his resemblance to the Orlando Magic veteran forward is admittedly uncanny), was locked in from the start, with his towering kick-snare blasts and explosive crashes matching King’s writhing melodrama at each turn. Beginning with an extended intro on “Adrenaline Nightshift," the band kicked into a powerhouse version of “Fire’s Highway"—King’s guitar was as saturated with distortion and texture as ever, matching Prowse’s physicality measure for measure. Halfway through the set (and after some “Enter Sandman” wanking from King), the pair played the excellent and French-girl-baiting “Wet Hair” before powering through the already-classic “The House That Heaven Built” to feverish response a few songs later. The night ended with a furious take on The Gun Club’s “For The Love Of Ivy,” an apt cover for a band that unabashedly wears its retro-leaning influences on its sleeve.
It’s no secret that Japandroids traffic in recycled ’80s rock (Hüsker Dü in particular), combining it with a millennial mall-rocker’s sense of pop-punk melody. But the difference is in the execution: Prowse and King offer up enough “whoa-ohs” throughout their populist anthems to make anthemic punk literaries Craig Finn or Patrick Stickles blush. And like The Hold Steady and Titus Andronicus, Japandroids seems to inspire a sense of populism and community in its audience that makes un-ironic fist-pumping inevitable. What’s notable, though, is Japandroids's brash theatricality and pummeling power: Apart from having more than a few pop-perfect hooks dotting their repertoire, watching these guys play leaves the impression that there’s something more going on than King’s cavalcade of wistful, yearbook-ready lyrics let on. Sometimes another boozy night is cause for celebration enough.