Recently, Japandroids front man Brian King revealed that the band nearly broke up following its 2009 debut, Post Nothing. King’s reasons would’ve been artistic differences and the desire to preserve a friendship with drummer David Prowse. Thankfully, no such breakup occurred, and the band went on to record Celebration Rock, one of 2012’s best albums.
The duo put on a heartfelt and energetic show at the Casbah on Saturday, proving without any doubt that they deserve the hype. After the sold-out performance, it was clear that Japandroids’ heart and soul lie in the live performance and a profound connection to some equally devoted fans.
The evening’s eclectic energy began with opener Cadence Weapon — aka Rollie Pemberton — who is up for Canada’s Polaris Prize against Japandroids. Looks of disbelief washed across faces in the audience when Cadence Weapon took the stage, as many attendees had most likely anticipated a band in a similar garage-rock vein as Japandroids. When Pemberton started with his first rhymes and brutal beats, the crowd definitely seemed taken aback. But thanks to his playful energy and prowess behind the mic, the crowd danced and sang along to the clever and anthemic choruses.
Having seen Japandroids at the Echoplex in Los Angeles the night before, it was an especially different experience seeing the band in the much smaller Casbah. Japandroids’ performance can only be described as a full-blown slaughter with unbound energy and heartfelt excitement in every song, delivering fist-pumping, anthemic track after track with little reprieve and a lot of jumping around. Minutes into their set, the Casbah had turned into a giant mosh pit complete with drunken people knocking over speakers and crowd surfers hanging from rafters.
Japandroids played equal parts Celebration Rock and Post Nothing, and highlights from the night were plentiful and hard to narrow down. The band’s amazing performance of Celebration Rock‘s “The House That Heaven Built” had the crowd alternating between singing every word and staring in sheer amazement at the intense energy and heart-wrenching lyrics that came to life on stage: “You’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live.”
Another great moment came during the band’s closing song, a cover of The Gun Club’s gritty track “For the Love of Ivy.” Japandroids’ rendition evoked the lively and “beware of flying fists” spirit of late-’70s L.A.’s punk scene.
In a world with such a diverse span of current music, Japandroids showed that a lot can still be done with just a drum kit and guitar. Nobody left the Casbah without sweat-drenched clothing, temporary deafness, and a sore throat.