Japandroids @ Danforth Music Hall/ Jan. 17 2017


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Noise peddlers Brian King and David Prowse– better known as Japandroids– made a stop in Toronto on January 17th and managed to shake the very foundation of the Danforth Music Hall with their stacks upon stacks of amps. A barrage of light and sound, the two unleashed their visceral brand of west coast rock on a crowd more than ready to dive into concert season. Opening was Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn and his side project The Uptown Controllers.

Having recently finished anniversary tours with the Hold Steady, rambling poet Craig Finn decided to do some solo work. The material still sounds very much like it’s from the same author of Boys and Girls in America, but it’s more concise and focused. The riffs are more distinct; the structure is tighter. Finn spoke of staying positive and upbeat, even as he extolled the virtues of disconnecting from online life. It was a relatively short set, but Finn promised to be back within the next year for a headlining show, presumably after the upcoming record is released.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what genre Vancouver duo Japandroids fit into. The band is frenetic, loud, and mercilessly fast. But they’re too experimental for punk. Too polished for garage rock. Too upbeat for emo. They bear all the hallmarks of different styles but slotting them into any particular one will cause debate.

The most apt label would be a cross between noise-rock and folk-punk. They take the sonic sensibilities of the former and the chord progressions and lyricism of the latter and blend it all up into a cathartic blast of sound. Even then it doesn’t factor in the hints of 80s modern rock that pop up on the latest record Near to the Wild Heart of Life, but it’s as close as we’re going to get.

The title track from that record was the first to hit the stage, followed by barnburner “Fire’s Highway” from 2012’s massive breakthrough Celebration Rock. The rest of the show was a solid mix of newer and older material, all varying degrees of intense. As frontman King predicted, new song “North East South West” was a hit with the crowd because he “says “Toronto” about ten times”.

Most of the other songs were similarly received though; it was one quick jolt of rock after another. Two exceptions were the climactic “Arc of Bar” and the closest we’re going to get to a Japandroids ballad, “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will”. A lot of the songs from the new record revolve simply around King being…really happy that he’s in love. It’s strangely endearing.

The show finished with Craig Finn joining the duo onstage doing a cover of The Saints‘ “Stranded”, a song that splits the difference between the two artists. It was a nice use of common ground that ended the show on a communal note.