Theatrics are not a trademark of Canadian rock duo Japandroids’ live show. It’s just two men, one with an electric guitar and one behind a drum kit, playing urgent rock’n'roll. But during Tuesday night’s Doug Fir Lounge performance frontman Brian King paused the set midway through to retrieve a prop offstage.
King came out in a dark-colored vest, if only briefly, to show vest devotee Rollie Pemberton, of opening act Cadence Weapon, he too could rock the clothing article. His joke finished, King invited the crowd to blog about it later and then removed the vest and commenced to rocking their faces off.
The band alternated between cuts from debut Post-Nothing and recently released Celebration Rock, in theory giving fans who did not like one or the other a chance to grab a beer or take a piss. Inadvertently, this punch/counterpunch approach showcased how much the band has grown in capturing its balls to the wall aesthetic and how well its older tracks have aged over the past three years.
I came away from Doug Fir thinking the only way I would witness a more life-affirming show in 2012 was if I witnessed Japandroids again. As with the first time I saw Japandroids in Portland, I also left Tuesday’s show with a sore neck.
In recent interviews, King and drummer Dave Prowse have talked about how they made their most recent record so they could tour more. These statements make sense. This is a dynamic live band, daring the audience not to become immersed in their “oh-oh-oh” choruses and blissful bursts of kinetic energy.
The critical reception for Celebration Rock has been nothing short of glowing. But the fever pitch has not gone to the duo’s heads, not on-stage at least.
King admitted before launching into Celebration Rock opener “Nights of Wine and Roses” that he and Prowse had difficulties pulling off the song’s vocals – that neither is a great singer does not matter. King encouraged the crowd to sing along and it obliged, yelling like “hell to the heavens” throughout.
King was self-deprecating and entertaining as a frontman. Before new cut “Evil’s Sway”, he informed the crowd that Prowse would deliver a drum solo worth the price of admission, or at least $1 or $2. That’s something you don’t get anymore, King noted.
No used car salesman pitches were needed for “Young Hearts Spark Fire”, a song King estimated they have played 300-400 times and one that is still my favorite Japandroids track. Hell, it might be my favorite song of the past five years, period.
Japandroids followed “Young Hearts Spark Fire” with set closer “For The Love of Ivy”, a cover of The Gun Club that appears on Celebration Rock. I watched with a smile as a preppy-looking kid in a polo shirt threw himself into others in an impromptu pit.
Whether sparking group sing-alongs and preppy moshing or delivering drum solos and instant classic songs, Japandroids electrified Doug Fir Tuesday night, a feat that far surpassed the price of admission.