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The odds were so far stacked against them that it seemed like victory was almost impossible. It was 2 against 930, one of the largest groups they’ve ever had to face in Boston, and supplies were running low; only a handful of picks and some spare guitar strings were left after their many other conquests. In the face of such unsurmountable odds, one couldn’t blame Japandroids to simply call it a day and go home, but that isn’t the game they’re playing. This fight isn’t just for them, but for their allies still with us (No Age, Lightning Bolt, Death From Above 1979) and their forefathers who have long since passed (Flat Duo Jets, The White Stripes).
However, from the moment the duo of Brian King (guitar and vocals) and David Prowse (drums and vocals) finally made their way to the stage on the hollowed grounds of the Paradise, they had already won the fight. The maximum capacity crowd surged forward with the first blast of distortion and soon we were all putty being molded by the music; each note smashed the crowd with enough force to send us flying to the left, and then the right, and then all over the floor.
Flowery-prose aside, Japandroids rock. And I don’t mean they rock, I mean they RAWK. Prowse pummels his drums like John Bonham reborn and King’s guitars are loud enough that they could probably be heard in other states. I mean, the guy has three stacks, two a Frankenstein mix of an Orange speaker, a Fender deluxe reverb, and a Hiwatt head with another Ampeg stack to cover the low-end. But these dudes play with finesse; they meld their guitars and drums and turn up the volume somewhere in-between normal rock band standards and a full-on aural assault.
Of course, the appeal of Japandroids isn’t only in their punk-like playing, but in their shouty and melodic songwriting. King stated that their latest album, Celebration Rock, was inspired by classic bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The Who and, appropriately, their music is filled with the “whoa”s and “oh yeah”s of the former and the melodic anger of the latter. And, if you think that reducing Petty’s influence on this album to a bunch of “oh yeah”s is insulting, trust me when I say yelling along to all of those ad-libs were some of the best parts of the concert.
The core of Japandroids’ songwriting is simplicity. Their songs are catchy enough that, even if you don’t know the song, you’ll be singing along by the half-way point. While this may lead to a lack of diversity on their albums, live it offers a thrilling prospect. Most bands clump their faster material into chunks before deviating into a slower song or segment; Japandroids don’t have “slow” song. Their set was a pile-driving force akin to crashing a car into a wall seventeen times in a row (once for each song in their set) and relishing each individual explosion.
In typical Canadian fashion, King and Prowse were as nice as two people could possibly be. Before launching into “Adrenaline Nightshift”, their opening song, King profusely thanked the crowd for coming out and promised a set that would allow everyone to let their anger out (in a safe manner of course, these boys are gentleman after all). And then, the assault began. “Fire’s Highway” gave everyone their first a chance to bellow along to a heart-racing chorus (“Two hearts from hell collide/On Fire’s Highway tonight/We dream it now we know”) and nearly every single song after followed suit.
The hyped up crowd responded to King’s opening speech by pushing, jumping, and screaming along to every verse, chorus, and “Whoa!” (But it’s more like “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-ooooh”). The only people that seemed more excited to be there were King and Prowse themselves. King slid, ran, and jumped around the stage and screamed into the mic like every breath was his last. There were, count ‘em, multiple instances of him grabbing the mic, shoving it into his face, and screaming with so much conviction that you could blow up an arena full of corporate rock bands with it. Prowse was, of course, tied to his drum kit but each hit of the snare splashed the sweat off of his face and each cymbal crash rang throughout the entire Paradise.
“Evil’s Sway”, “The Night of Wine and Roses”, “Wet Hair”, “Young Hearts Spark Fire”… You name it, they probably played it, as they basically powered through the majority of their short-discography, making enough room for early single “Art Czars” and two covers. Never once did a sly smile leave either King or Prose’s faces; they knew they were giving the crowd everything they could possibly want and they loved it.
In reality, you could boil Japandroids’ essence down to a single chorus from their song, “The House That Built Heaven”: “If they love and they will/Tell them all they’ll love in my shadow/And if they try to slow you down/Tell them all to go to hell”. Japandroids don’t take any prisoners but, more importantly, they don’t have to. Their music is irresistibly fun and surprisingly deep while their live show is powerful, earnest, and honest; these guys put their entire existence up to the task and reap the rewards.
DIIV (pronounced “Dive”) opened the show with their own brand of surf rock. However, what sets them apart from their contemporaries are their noisy influences. Closing song “Doused” had riffs that sounded right out of Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth, while the rest of their set focused on mostly instrumental, kraut-rock inspired jams from their 2012 debut album, Oshin.