2017 is already shaping up to be a big year for Japandroids, with their third record Near to the Wild Heart of Life released in January, a continent crossing tour ongoing and prime slots at many of Europe’s most exciting festivals, life is looking pretty good for Brian King (guitar) and David Prowse (drums).
Once you’ve had a few hits, it’s easy to see how a young band could lose focus but there seems to be no loss of appetite as the duo open with ‘Near to the Wild Heart of Life’, the cumbersomely titled but extremely catchy title track from their new album.
With stark black and white lighting mirroring their monochromatic artwork, the duo race through their garage-punk tunes as though a curfew is coming any second.
Despite their burgeoning success they’ve even retained an endearing lack of robotic perfectionism, managing to introduce themselves twice as “Brian and Dave from Vancouver, British Columbia” and ragging their instruments until they lose their tuning.
Both King and Prowse play ‘til they’re drenched in sweat and though the audience don’t quite match them for energy at first, as the lights slowly shift to blues and reds the energy and temperatures rise.
Standouts are ‘Younger Us’ with it’s fantastic syllable bursting chorus of “remember that night you were already in bed, said “fuck it” got up to drink with me instead!” and a shout along version of ‘Nights of Wine and Roses’.
Live, the rolling and rumbling ‘Continuous Thunder’ has become a chant along monster, anchored by brutal drum cracks, while ‘Young Hearts Spark Fires’ from their debut Post Nothing is one of their punkiest, punchiest tracks, bolstering the recorded version’s crackly brittle production with balcony busting riffs.
Arguably the new album (which sees the duo experiment with – shock horror – overdubs, for the first time) is not quite as combustible as Post Nothing or its follow-up Celebration Rock but the half a dozen tracks played here don’t sound out of place alongside the old favourites.
Exiting on a frenzied ‘House That Heaven Built’ the dup return for what is probably only the second genuinely spontaneous encore that I’ve ever seen.
As fans cheer them on King declares that the duo didn’t play a single encore on their recent US tour, before tearing through an unrehearsed but fiery ‘Adrenaline Nightshift’ and ‘Evil’s Sway’.
This year is a big year but it looks like Japandroids are well up for the challenge.
Words: Max Sefton
Photos: Erin McKay