Two-piece bands almost always seem to perform like their lives depend on it.
I remember seeing No Age a couple years ago and feeling absolutely aurally accosted. Then there were The Black Keys whose music rippled above and beyond the limits of Deer Lake last summer. And don’t even get me started on the Watch The Throne tour.
Maybe it’s because musical chemistry is more easily built and nurtured when only two people are involved. Or maybe the members know that they have to sonically make up for what they lack in numbers, resulting in an exponentially more powerful performance than any five-set could pull off. Either way, such was the case at the Biltmore on July 7 as Japandroids played themselves into a sold-out homecoming.
As I stepped into the Biltmore — easily one of Vancouver’s most intimate venues—the entire crowd was as close to the stage as was physically possible. Meanwhile, other people had taken to standing on tables, chairs and booth cushions, vying for the best possible view the night could offer. Since Japandroids are Vancouver natives, it was tough to tell who were personal friends of the band, and who were ball-to-the-wall fans because, well, everyone was equally stoked. Although, it was adorably obvious who their parents were (standing on the cushions of the booth furthest away from the stage).
But despite their parents’ presence, Japandroids put on a performance any mother could love. Grinning from ear to ear and interacting with the audience the entire time, strummer Brian King and drummer David Prowse weren’t just in their element, they sucked us all into it too. Their song structures are tailor-made for audience participation and interaction. From the “woah oh oh oh ohoh ohoh” of “Fire’s Highway” to the rapturous anthem that is “The House That Heaven Built,” the audience was screeching the lyrics back to Japandroids like they hated the hell out of them.
Unsurprisingly, the inclusion of “Rockers East Vancouver” was met with roaring anticipation as flailing water bottles drenched the mosh pit. There was a striking element of “specialness” to the whole performance. Between a handful of songs, King would make note that “this song was recorded in Vancouver,” or “this song was written after recording in Vancouver” (“Nights of Wine and Roses”) and that it would be their first time actually performing it in the city (“Continuous Thunder”). The venue was swollen with pride.
The set was rounded out with their fantastically frantic cover of “For the Love of Ivy” and the crowd catapulted into utter violent hysteria. It’s something pretty damn special when two individuals can command an audience like that. As far as stage presence goes, Prowse and King were definitely on their Jay and Ye game that night. Bravo, boys.