Japandroids - Mandela Hall, Belfast
Mandela Hall, Belfast
Friday, 17th August, 2012
It’s hard to believe but only three years ago, Canadian duo Brian King and David Prowse aka Japandroids were a band on the verge of disappearing without coming to the (hip) world’s attention. With their would-be swansong debut Post-Nothing seeing them clasped from the jaws of anonymity, their new album, Celebration Rock, is nothing short of a breathless fulfilment of the two-piece’s restless, feel-good garage rock abandon. That said - having toured extensively in its wake - whether or not Japandroids’ otherwise euphoric approach translates in the sizable surroundings of Belfast’s Mandela Hall is another story altogether.
With a significant part of the tonight’s 900-strong capacity venue curtailed at either end and David Prowse’s drumkit assembled expectantly stage left, a youthful assemblage of eager heads await Japandroids appearance tonight. Emerging around 10pm, they delve straight into the feverish punk of ‘The Boys Are Leaving Town’ – the opening song from their 2009 debut – without fanfare, its carefree theme failing to rouse the crowd as obviously intended. “We play that one just to get warmed up”, remarks Brian King, half-jokingly, before a swift airing of the equally punchy ‘Adrenaline Nightshift’ and the duo’s “oldest new song”, ‘Younger Us’. While the energy and intent is accounted for, the force, immediacy and general sense of occasion is clearly lacking in these early stages.
With a talkative Brian King clearly in good spirits, spurting countless bursts of straight-up “carpe diem” between songs, Japandroids’ faithful are quick to invigorate the mood. The supremely upbeat, albeit slightly samey ‘Fire’s Highway’ and ‘The Night of Wine and Roses’ – provoke two of the most arm-flailingly convincing songs of the night. Prowse comes to form on ‘House That Heaven Built’ - "If they try to slow you down, tell 'em to go to hell" - and the swaying groove of ‘Crazy/Good’ makes for a much-needed variation of tempo and feel; the set-up until said point morphing into an agreeable yet fairly unexceptional half hour.
Indeed, with both King and Prowse displaying unambiguous zeal throughout – the former frequently standing beside his bandmate in a visible show of comradeship – Japandroids nail material they happily admit are composed around how they wish a crowd to react; simplistic, slightly exasperating “oh-oh-ohs” and one-line bursts of living-in-the-now (see: “We used to dream, now we worry about dying” on set peak ‘Continuous Thunder’) making for a spirited and generally enjoyable sonic attack on the everyday. Sadly though, despite ending on the garage-rock fervour of first-rate Gun Club cover ‘For The Love of Ivy’, the affable duo’s undeniable vigour feels lost in the space; their lack of a live touring bassist, more than anything, proving a decisive factor in many (yet far from all of) tonight’s crowd leaving disinterested and a little underwhelmed.