Brian King sauntered on stage Saturday night with only his drummer, David Prowse, aiding him. King and Prowse, members of the band Japandroids, charged into their lead single, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life,” and mid-verse, King hocked a loogie the size of a small bird that clung to an oversized amp for the entire show.
Cloud Nothings, a Cleveland punk outfit, opened for Japandroids and put on a stunning set with their drummer playing a lead role--even while only on a half-sized drum kit. After one jam, an audience member shouted, “The drummer rules!” only to be corrected by Cloud Nothings’ bassist, TJ Duke, who responded, “The drummer has a name, call him Jayson.”
Jayson undoubtedly ruled.
Jayson captivated fans with faces that made the audience members concerned for his sanity while he pounded a kit solely containing a bass drum, a snare, a tom, a cymbal and a high-hat. His frantic solos brought color to the opening set, and front-man Dylan Baldi still found a moment to remind everyone to donate to the Planned Parenthood tables. Still, the crowd was anxious for the band whose lyrics they all knew by heart.
Japandroids have a unique energy as a two-piece indie-punk act, known for relentless touring during album cycles followed by periods of hibernation to recover. After “Celebration Rock,” their 200-show world tour from March 2012 to November 2013, they released a Facebook post saying they were going to “disappear into the ether.”
Fans were so obsessive during the Vancouver punks' absence that blog articles popped up years after with headlines like, “Yo, Japandroids, Where You at, Dawgs?” in April 2015 and “The Incredible Disappearance of Japandroids” in November 2015. The band produced radio silence for nearly three full years: no shows, no new music, no social media.
Last November, Japandroids triumphantly returned with the title track for their third record, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life,” an album that showed the band maturing lyrically and instrumentally, as they settled down into a more domestic lifestyle. During their hibernation, Prowse and King spent significant time away from each other. The former stayed in Vancouver, and the latter split time with his girlfriend in Mexico City and closer to home in Toronto.
But as the duo took to the stage, the time spent apart came unnoticed.
King’s hair glistened from the moment they walked out, sweaty even before strumming his telecaster. He performed like a classic rock showman, taking shots between songs, wearing concerningly tight jeans and strutting closing enough to the stage’s edge for fans to grasp at his blacked-out boots.
Japandroids finally closed out the night with the ascendant pseudo-breakup track, “House That Heaven Built,” which reaches its climax at the line, “But I’m not yours to die for anymore/ So I must live.” “Heaven” presents a sentiment crucial to the band, showcasing an unparalleled earnestness, while reaching for a “house built of living light,” because Japandroids have no interest in playing it cool.
They’re extremely self-serious for a band that once sang, “She had wet hair say what you will/ I don’t care I couldn’t resist it,” but somehow it works. There’s no pretense with Japandroids, just pure passion and yearning and sweat and loogies with more hang-time than Jordan in his prime.
Contact lifestyle writer Conner Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org.