In 2012, I was still a baby in the world of indie-rock. I still listened to Marilyn Manson pretty religiously. Eminem’s Slim Shady LP was still relatively prominent on my iPod Classic, and I mostly listened to Green Day above all else. I was a senior in high school. The world at my fingertips, I was pretty picky about what I deemed fine for my ears. Still, that was the year I began listening to Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, and Lou Reed: gateway bands. It was also the year Celebration Rock was released. It seemed every major music publication discussed this breakthrough Japandroids record. Armed with one of the best band names in rock, I figured these guys couldn’t be bad. Celebration Rock was an absolute gamechanger. I was fascinated by how two people could make such full sounds with great lyrics. It became a staple of my first semester of college. Even though my friends weren’t as enthused with lines like “Give me that night you were already in bed/said ‘fuck it’ stayed up to drink with me instead,” I was enthralled. Celebration Rock is the type of record you believe you’re living when you’re just starting college.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t see Japandroids live until last night, no longer a starry-eyed freshman, but a working stiff. It seemed that I was even on the younger side of the audience. Through balding crowdsurfers to couples that looked like they were in their 30’s, Japandroids captured the nostalgia of youth in Terminal 5.
As far as nostalgia runs, Craig Finn opening the show was fitting. Finn’s music with The Hold Steady is practically built on nostalgia for eras where Dillinger 4 and The Replacements were the largest names in punk. Finn’s solo work isn’t nearly as explosive as The Hold Steady, but his lyricism is still solid. It was a shame that his set started so early, and I only arrived during “Newmyer’s Roof,” possibly his best solo song. The last two songs of his set were solid, but it was somewhat upsetting that Finn wasn’t at his typical level of larger-than-life lead singer of a massive band.
By the time David Prowse sat behind his kit, a packed venue was ready to sing some “Whoa’s.” Brian King ripped a few chords before launching into “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.” A song like “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” doesn’t have the fireworks that started and ended Celebration Rock, but hearing the song live, breathes a certain life into it. King can pack all sorts of new emotion into the song.
The emotional impact could truly be felt throughout the show, as Near to the Wild Heart of Life is an adult record, the band seemed excited to showcase their entire career, playing three tracks off Post-Nothing and almost the entirety of Celebration Rock. King kept referencing when the duo played the city for the first time a decade before and how great it is that they’ve grown. With how great Japandroids have been, it’s hard to think that they’re not just a pair of robots designed to play perfect rock songs, but what stuck out the most about each of the guys was their humanness and thankfulness for the success they’ve seen. Prowse interacted a fair bit with the front row in between songs. King adopted some more frontman habits such as announcing, “If you like that one, then you’ll definitely know this one,” before “The Night of Wine and Roses.”
Even though the most excitement came during songs like “The Night of Wine and Roses” or “Wet Hair,” the new songs received a large amount of excitement probably most during “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” and “No Known Drink or Drug.” One of the most exciting moments though was Craig Finn’s return to the stage, Budweiser in hand, to sing “Stranded” by The Saints. The trio all had excellent chemistry, and Finn adopted more of the demeanor of the frontman for a hardcore band. This saw both artists at their least restrained and enjoying themselves the most.
Even if I’m not a college freshman anymore, I got to throw my arm around one of my best friends during a Japandroids show like I’d wished to when I was. While some bands wallow as they age, Japandroids celebrate how far they’ve come, taking two steps ahead and one back, as they celebrate the past and look to days to come.