Rewind to November 2009, and a certain SR scribe is cursing his luck after only catching the vinegar strokes of Japandroids’ début Manchester show at Moho Live, so he makes a solemn oath that night that he’ll definitely, 100%, without any shadow of doubt catch them on their headline tour a few months hence.
Little did he (it’s me, in case you hadn’t guessed) realise that the gig would coincide with his (my) best pal’s 30th birthday, and that his (my) missus wouldn’t let him (me) sneak off halfway through his (my mate’s) night at the pub.
Surely a similar situation couldn’t happen again tonight could it? It could, you know, and very nearly did. To cut a very long story short, I was at a leaving do and the front of house team at Prezzo at MediaCity did their utmost to sabotage another Japandroids gig for me by taking almost two hours to get our main courses out. And their pizza is a rock-hard affront to wood-fired ovens, too, so there. Take that.
Back to the show, then, and with minutes to spare, Soup Kitchen is heaving. Heaving to the extent that the promoter is on the stairs leading down into the venue, pointing out that there’s a postage stamp of unoccupied space near the bar, but that’s 15 yards and about 150 people away, and there’s a real chance that I’d end up getting vapourised between the bodies if I dared attempt it.
Anyway, standing at the bar is for losers, and by time the Vancouver duo assume their positions, pretty much everybody has crowbarred themselves to the front.
Alternating between material from their breathless Post-Nothing début and soon-to-be-released successor, Celebration Rock, they strike a perfect balance between familiarity and tantalising glimpses of the future, with the newer offerings taking on a healthy blue-collar Springsteenian sheen compared to their altogether fuzzier forebears.
Brian King is a jovial, quick-witted frontman, chastising the faithful for cheering Fire’s Highway, “Don’t woo an album that isn’t out yet. Don’t woo an album you’ve illegally downloaded”, his tongue practically tearing a hole through his cheek in the process.
The joyous Wet Hair brings the crowd out of their sweaty slumber, with a modest-but-enthusiastic pit breaking out and David Prowse’s drumkit rebounding violently and threatening to collapse with each bash he dishes out to it.
Recent single, The House That Heaven Built builds the momentum further, but nothing can top Young Hearts Spark Fire, King’s eyes scrunching up as he howls “I don’t don’t wanna worry about dying, I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls”, a few dozen arms reaching towards the pendant lights dangling above in complete and utter agreement.
You can imagine Japandroids being swallowed up in a larger venue, but in this kind of intimate, personable environment, there can’t be many better bands doing the rounds. Absolutely immense.