(Photo: Rick Gofton)

In a recent Spectrum Culture interview, Japandroids guitarist Brian King told me, “Punk is no more a music genre than Pluto is a planet.” He went on to discuss the limitations and irrelevance of musical labels. It’s not surprising, then, that the opener for the Vancouver-based duo’s Lincoln Hall show was not another garage rock band, but a rapper originally from Edmonton, Alberta named Rollie Pemberton, otherwise known as Cadence Weapon. The crowd admittedly looked a bit skeptical at first, but they quickly warmed up to Pemberton’s brand of articulate, personal hip-hop. The rapper gave the audience plenty of chances to get involved with songs like “Jukebox” and “Real Estate,” shouting out lines for them to chant along with.

The crowd connection established by Cadence Weapon only intensified with Japandroids, as more fans started to pour into the modestly-sized hall. Brian King (guitar, vocals) and David Prowse (drums, vocals) lit the sold-out crowd on fire. They played with the kind of unbridled passion you might expect from a couple of 16 year-olds who just learned how to rock out on their instruments yet simultaneously displayed a spirit of humility and maturity that comes with experience. Rather than just getting “in the zone” and playing song after song with little acknowledgment of the audience, King talked between each song about his old, frequently-out-of-tune guitar, life on the road and, most importantly, his unbridled enthusiasm for playing music. Before playing “The House That Heaven Built,” a key track from the duo’s new record Celebration Rock, King mentioned how hard life on the road can be but how watching the crowd’s reaction to this song night after night makes it all worthwhile. Banter such as this might have come off as trite if not for the fact that the band didn’t just talk about how much they love playing music; they proved it with every sweat-drenched note.

The band played 14 of the 16 songs from their two major LPs. This means that few fans walked away without hearing their favorite Japandroids tune. The set opened with an extended-intro version of “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” the opening tune from the band’s first LP Post-Nothing. It clearly took a tune or two to get the sound as loud as the duo wanted, but by the time they played “Younger Us,” a punk rock hymn to youthful spontaneity, everything clicked into place. The crowd, rather mellow and distant at first, lightened up. They started jumping, moshing and screaming along with favorite lines. There was very little holding back from that point on, as the two men on stage and the five hundred or so people on the floor had their senses assaulted with songs like “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “Wet Hair” and “Young Hearts Spark Fire.” The energy only waned slightly near the end of the set for “Continuous Thunder,” an uncharacteristically slow tune, but one that still packed an emotional punch.

Before launching into the last tune, a caustic cover of the Gun Club song “For the Love of Ivy,” King told a funny story about how his zipper broke right before the show and he had to salvage it with the help of some safety pins purchased at the CVS next door. “There’s nothing less rock star than that,” he said. This was the perfect anecdote to cap off a night of zealous, down-to-earth rock ‘n’ roll. The guitarist encouraged anyone in the audience who has ever thought of making music to start a band. Judging by the audience members’ wide smiles and exuberant conversations on the way out, it’s possible that several people might take King’s advice. If their bands are even half as passionate and adept as Japandroids, the future is in good hands.

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