Japandroids live @ The Workmans Club 16 August 2012

It has been three years since Vancouver duo Japandroids last played Dublin to a handful of people as a support act with A Place To Bury Strangers in Whelans.  How times have changed. Hot on the heels of the release of their critically acclaimed second album, ‘Celebration Rock’, they brought their two man show back to the Workmans Club, and while not exactly full to the rafters, there was a palpable buzz of anticipation amongst those that had gathered. 

Japandroids are hot at the moment, and a very mixed crowd of the devout and the curious were here to witness whether they could translate their unique brand of Geek Rock to a live setting. Opening with ‘The Boys are leaving Town’ from debut album ‘Post Nothing’, Japandroids set about delivering a set of no nonsense, balls out rock – their manifesto is simple – loud guitars, pounding drums and shouty vocals delivered with energy and full on passion. So did they exceed our expectations?

Well not quite. The show lacked a certain something, never truly igniting. Perhaps it was the limitations of a two piece guitar act – no bass guitar meant the set lacked a little thunder – the sole guitar was loud but never really powerful and at times the vocals were a little flat and lacking oomph – never more evident than on their one real mid-tempo song ‘Continuous Thunder’ which should have been anthemic but just sounded tired and listless.

There were some great moments – ‘The House that Heaven Built’ came close to lift off – the band readily acknowledged that this was the one song that probably dragged a lot of the audience along to the show, and the response of the crowd seemed to bear that out. ‘The Night of Wine and Roses’ really fizzed along and closing song, a cover of the Gun Club’s ‘For the Love of Ivy’,  seemed to energise the band as they scorched through a blistering, breathless version that closed the set on a satisfying note.

There is no question that we need bands like Japandroids – they have demonstrated it is possible to distil rock down to its very basic elements and come up with something fresh and exciting.  Live, they delivered a good if not truly great set; not quite the epic celebration of rock we expected.
Paul Page