The rock n’ roll two piece was a novelty until The White Stripes became one of the biggest bands in the world. The mantle was picked up by The Black Keys when they went from cool, alt indie darlings to super stars with the Lonely Boy, the song that refuses to stop being awesome, no matter how many times I hear it flogged on commercial radio, almost two full years after its release. Both bands have plenty of killer songs, but both struggle to recreate their sound and keep their two piece status intact when they perform live.
Obviously padded out with layers and layers of guitar and bass overdubs on studio albums, The White Stripes settled for just sounding empty and a bit crap live. While The Black Keys get backup musicians to fill out their sound when out of the studio and on the stage. The reason I’m taking so long to mention the band that this review is supposed to actually about, is to give them some context, to make sure they get the credit they deserve. Because Canada’s Japandroids sounded absolutely amazing live, even better than their albums. There are no smoke and mirrors, just two dudes, Brian King (guitar/vocals) and David Prowse (drums/vocals), rocking as hard, playing as loud and making as much noise as two dudes ever could.
Over the course of about 80 minutes, they managed to rock the shit out of The Corner Hotel without ever letting up for second. It was an awesome start, with possibly my two favourite Japandroids songs appearing early in the set. Fires Highway and The Nights of Wine and Roses sound great on the Celebration Rock album. Live, they really blew me away. Japandroids have that rare ability to be all shambolic rock and roll loose swagger, while somehow maintaining absolute pinpoint precision. And when that swagger brings them to the verge of losing all control, the show just becomes that much better.
King is a born rock front man, but the real surprise was Prowse. His drumming adds so much more than just a beat and rhythm. He somehow almost plays his own melodies. I’ve always thought it was kind of cool on their albums, but seeing and hearing Japandroids live made me realise what a major role he plays in their distinctive sound.
These two dudes are old school Rock (note, the capital “R”). Even after King announced a couple of “slow jams” to help them catch their breath, the pair still played like they with everything turned up to 11. King also let us know that this is the last week of an 18 month tour, apologising for their worn out voices and general fatigue. If this is Japandroids exhausted and depleted, they must have been outright dangerous at the beginning of the tour. Second last song, The House That Heaven Built was a real standout, with plenty of “oh oh ooohs” to get the crowd screaming along.
I’m pretty new to the Japandroids party and only stumbled across them about 5 minutes after they played their last Australian shows at the Laneway Festival in February. So it was awesome that they came back so soon and I didn’t have to wait years to see them live. Hopefully they get back in the studio as soon as they get back to Vancouver so they have a new album and new reason to tour soon.
There’s no point subjecting anyone to shakey iPhone footage from last night, so instead I found an awesome live clip of the boys in action. As amazing as this looks on video, it’s nothing compared to seeing, hearing, feeling it happen right there, in front of your eyes.