Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Live Review - Japandroids/Diiv at Webster Hall December 4th

Japandroids are rock stars. In just a few short months their status has propelled exponentially, and it seems only to continue with year-end lists that have featured the band prominently high. Drummer David Prowse and lead singer/guitarist Brian King live for their concert performances, even admitting they recorded “a new album just to keep touring.” Together, they are two of the most likable people in the business, commanding a presence last night at Webster Hall unlike any other rock band working today.

I was also surprised by opening band Diiv’s strong showing. Their debut album Oshin is a reverb-heavy collection of beach pop songs that possesses an energy that separates it from shoegaze and chillwave, but not by much. Like the Titus Andronicus/Ceremony bill on Sunday, this pairing did not seem like the best fit, since lyrically and vocally these are two very different beasts, but again, I was wrong. Diiv are much livelier in person than in their recordings and rocked a sleek opening set.

Wearing jeans that put all other skinny jeans to shame, Brian started things off loud and fast segueing into “Adrenaline Nightshift.” The guys were friendly to the audience and were game for anything, like when some fans teased the band with shouts of “Let’s Go Rangers!” digging at the band’s Canadian hockey roots. Brian went on a playful tirade about why the Rangers “actually suck.” While Titus Andronicus might possess more ardent fans (the audience last night sang along far less than on Sunday), there was genuine love felt all around. Best example: girl near David calls for his attention. “What?” he mouths. “I love you drummer,” is all she says, repeatedly as a matter of fact. Brian thanks her and blushes, probably a bit perplexed by the rampant adoration.

Early into their set, I noticed that security escorted the professional photographers out of the throughway between the stage and audience. Brian then gave the audience permission to come up on stage, jokingly warning “you didn't hear it from me.” Yours truly was an accomplice in getting many fans onto the stage, and security was friendly enough, playing a game of cat and mouse with fans who dared to try and reach the stage before a guard got to them first.

Japandroids’ latest album, Celebration Rock, is a slimmer, more refined record that showcases the band’s longevity at making very little sound like a lot, and that was evident throughout the night with hits like “The House That Heaven Built” and “Young Hearts Spark Fire.” While some of their older songs have been guilty of meandering verses that feel a bit repetitive like in “Couture Suicide,” and “Press Corps,” (“Wet Hair” being the exception), their newer songs add something extra satisfying—usually a more dramatic shout of the same lyrics, as in “Younger Us,” or a guns-blazing guitar solo, like in “Fire’s Highway” and “The Night of Wine and Roses” that justifies their length.

It is not platinum-selling records, sold-out massive stadium tours, or gracing the cover of every magazine website that proves once and for all that you've finally made it; more tellingly, it’s when you have a backlash that you know you’re a star. It doesn't matter that the scalpers outside the venue can’t pronounce the band’s name. When your work is being religiously and carefully analyzed and discussed throughout the blogosphere, you must be doing something right.

Ignore the overwrought position that this band is too nostalgic and instead, believe the hype: this band knows how to rock, and with only one guitar player to boot.

-Photos and story by Joe Waslin 

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