Before going home to bask in their many “top 10 aoty” honors this year, Japandroids treated Chicago to one more 2012 show at the Metro. It was extra sold out. Even with DIIV dropping out of the opening slot in favor of a David Letterman appearance, the people packed in tight for the two boys from Vancouver.
Celebration Rock is one of this year’s best albums, so a Japandroids live show is approached with high hopes. This was my third time seeing the band, second this year (after Pitchfork), and I can now confidently say that this band has a little issue that they’re going to have to deal with. Brian King’s voice.
By the third song, Brian’s voice is gone. He told the crowd that they’ve been touring for four months and only have a couple shows left, and that he needs our help to sing along with the hard songs–I interpreted this as something like, “Yeah I know my voice is shot, but gimme a break.” At times the crowd obliged, but at other times you could feel the collective drooping of shoulders when Brian went flat at a peak moment.
David Prowse, on the other side of the stage, kept them both afloat for 90 straight minutes. He never looked tired, his voice sounded strong on the mic, and his drumming was kick-ass. So even though Brian sings more lead, he has no excuse; he should do better out there. The kids only want to shout with a singer if the singer is shouting. Brian regularly fell into a lull of talk-sing.
This all indicates that the band’s greatest strength is their songwriting ability. Both of their full-lengths are a joy to listen to from start to finish. Whether it’s a track with that trudging tempo or one with that hardcore punk velocity, these guys have a ton of highly listenable songs under their belts already. Maybe the best thing I can say about the Metro show is that it made me want to go back and listen to Post-Nothing again.
Then again, this is raw music. If everything sounded perfect, it wouldn’t be rock and roll. The most honest moment of the night was when a seemingly exhausted Brian sputtered the line, “It’s raining in Vancouver, and I don’t give a fuck, cuz I’m far from home tonight.” He drank beer throughout the set, which obviously doesn’t soothe sore vocal chords. He tuned his guitar as long as he needed, and spit wherever. The man did not give a fuck. He was playing rock and roll the way he plays it, and that’s exactly what we want the lead singer of Japandroids to do.
So, it’s not really a huge problem after all. I don’t want this band to be Fleet Foxes or something. Discordant harmonies are okay with these guys. Kids down front still pump their fists, mosh, and crowd surf. Something about rock and roll just moves us, even when (and maybe especially when) it’s blatantly imperfect. Still, David might want to take over lead on a few more songs in those 90 minute sets come the 2013 tour. Couldn’t hurt.