Some bands find their earlier years to be their most challenging, striving for recognition with unspectacular debuts, later hitting the big time with a breakthrough album (Prince, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Blur etc.). Many more make an astounding debut, then sink without a trace after the dreaded second album syndrome and/or lose their momentum with later releases (Strokes, CSS, Best Coast and so on).

Then there are the ones that have the best deal of all – musicians that make a great first album, take their creative output from strength to strength and achieve consistent recognition and success. Japandroids seem to be in the latter camp. Turning heads and gaining acclaim with their debut Post Nothing in 2009, they’ve cemented their reputation among critics and fans alike.

Gorilla serves the Vancouver duo well this evening as the band approaches the end of a six-month North America and European tour. Intimate and modest without being restrictive, the band really connects with their crowd at this proximity.

Road-testing their latest release Near to the Wild Heart of Life, the band’s new tracks stand up well. They include the Clash/Half Japanese-esque ‘North East South West’, ‘Arc of Bar’ and ‘No Known Drink or Drug’.
Classic tracks rile the crowd in the form of ‘Heart Sweats’ and ‘Wet Hair’ with its Placebo-style choppy strum work.

Celebration Rock’s ‘Continuous Thunder’, ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ and final track of the evening ‘The House That Heaven Built’ show the consistent quality that runs through Japandroids’ material as their second album seems to be just as loved as their debut.

A band peddling punk/heavy rock may face challenges with bringing their sound out of the two-dimensional without the support of basslines or keys. The only two-person bands that achieve/did achieve evolution with their sounds are The White Stripes (through their constant innovation), The Black Keys (by flitting between blues, ballads, fuzzy rock and even funk) and Giant Drag (because they were just so plain weird and interesting).

Japandroids’ tracks do sometimes feel samey to the semi-initiated. However, their standout tracks, undeniable talent and enthusiasm for what they do keeps them on the touring circuit. This and an adoring, nostalgic fanbase hooked by emotions. Seasoned rockers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with teenagers on the front row, all finding comfort and release in belting out the bands’ classic tracks with closed eyes.

One thing Japandroids can’t be faulted on is the passion and the energy their put into performing. Whether that’s expressed through Brain King’s star jumps off the drums, David Prowse’s vigorous percussion or the duo’s impressive synchronicity, energy-wise there’s not a single lull in their set.

For the first time in at least five years, I also saw unpunished crowd surfing and stage-invaders. This personifies Japandroids’ gig tonight – unfiltered energy, conviction and passion governed by an energetic old-school rock philosophy.

Japandroids: Official | Facebook | Twitter