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Wednesday, 21 November 2012 18:15

Concert review: Japandroids go and go and go at the Firebird (with Swearin'), Tuesday, November 20

Japandroids at the Firebird Japandroids at the Firebird Louis Kwok
Written by Brian Benton

It always impresses me just how loud and complete some two-piece bands can sound. The Black Keys, the White Stripes and the Kills are the first that come to mind, but after Tuesday night at the Firebird I might have to put a new pair at the top of that list: Japandroids.

Playing to a sold-out crowd, the Vancouver duo of Brian King and David Prowse ripped through an hour-and-a-half-long tour de force. The set hit full on, so much so that the fast pace sometimes made the lyrics and mid-song dialogue about hockey and touring and a bunch of other things seem rushed or jumbled. With spot-on guitar and drumming coming from two guys with incomparable energy, the jumble didn't really matter though.

Philadelphia's Swearin' opened with a set that was, for lack of a better word, average. Maybe it was overwhelmed by Japandroids power and presence, or maybe their scrappy punk rock really did just lack that "it" factor. My favorite member to watch was bassist Keith Spencer, who wore a "Yoko Ono" shirt and reminded me of Jason Schwartzman, awkwardly lurking in the back corner of the stage. The set, while relatively flat, had good pacing with lots of quick songs and little time wasted. It had to be. How else would Swearin' have been able to play 17 songs as openers?

Between sets, there was a lot of movement in the crowd. Some of the older members of the audience went for drinks (at the end of the night, the floor was a sea of empty PBR cans) while others pushed their way closer to the stage. I overheard two teenage boys who moved their way to the front. "Is this going to turn into a mosh pit?" one asked. "I hope so!" responded the other.

After doing their own sound check, Japandroids took the stage at around 10:15 p.m. King, incredibly hip with a floppy head of hair and an animated face, began picking at his Fender, while Prowse warmed up on the drums. Their introduction progressed, until it suddenly stopped. "I broke my pedal," Prowse said. "It actually snapped in half." With how hard he drummed for the rest of the night, I'm surprised he didn't snap the replacement, too.

After opening with a few songs from the newest album, "Celebration Rock," King let us know that since it had been so long since Japandroids had been in St. Louis, they'd play an extra long set with a few older songs. In addition to a few from their first full length, "Post-Nothing" -- including a scrappy rendition of "The Boys are Leaving Town" early on and triumphant version one of my favorite songs, "Wet Hair" (I still have the line, "Let's get to France / So we can French kiss some French girls," stuck in my head) -- the band played a handful of cuts off their first two self-released EPs.

"The House That Heaven Built," the bands' most recent single, got the crowd excited and singing. Everyone joined together to sing "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh oh oh, oh!" throughout. The end of that song was when I first realized that I was drenched in sweat, most of it mine. I looked around, and everyone else was drenched as well, especially Prowse, who finished off at least three bottles of water during the night and continuously grabbed for a towel to wipe his brow.

Aside from a few technical difficulties, the show was almost perfect. King, Prowse and the crowd gave their all and kept kicking until the end of the night. In fact, the last few songs came the hardest and loudest. "Continuous Thunder" was just that, a thunderous punch in the stomach that took some time to build momentum before the crowd took it as one more reason to crash into each other. "Young Hearts Spark Fire" was another unexpected song, but not even that posed a potential conflict. The crowd jumped and danced and yelled, fists in the air, just like they'd been doing all night.

Japandroids closed with "For the Love of Ivy," without an encore to follow. I would have liked to hear more, but looking back, maybe it was for the best. I don't know if I would have had the energy for it. King and Prowse would have, but I don't know how much longer I could have kept going.

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