by Matt Kelchner
On Saturday night, Vancouver duo Japandroids took the stage for the second of back to back shows at Union Transfer. Riding high on the release of Near to the Wild Heart of Life, their recently released third album, David Prowse and Brian King unleashed a whirlwind of a set comprised of songs new and old. The pair of shows this past weekend marked the first since the end of 2012 and Japandroids made it up to their fans for all of the lost time.
The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn and his new band The Uptown Controllers are joining Japandroids for this current leg of the Near to the Wild Heart of Life tour as the only opener (who came out in full force). The lively and animated songwriter took the opportunity to introduce fans that came out early to a handful of new songs from his upcoming solo album We All Want The Same Things. While tracks like “Preludes” and “Be Honest” have been previously premiered, Finn gifted the crowd with the debut of “Jester & June”, the lead track off the aforementioned record. Finn and company made the most of their brief time on stage, but fans would later learn that it would not be the last that they heard from him.
From the beginning notes of their new album’s title track that kicked off the night, Japandroids made it a point to not take their figurative foot off the pedal. Standing in the center of a wall of amps a la J Mascis, Prowse joked early on that Friday’s crowd impressed him with their level of crazed energy and challenged those in attendance to outdo the previous night. It ended up being something that the fans took full pride in accomplishing. Waves of crowd surfers flowed over the swelling of fans en masse below them. The lack of a barricade invited stage divers to come up in hordes. All of these came colliding together as lyrics to each song were shouted out around Union Transfer.
Japandroids blazed through almost 20 songs Saturday night with a setlist that reached into all three of their albums. Near to the Wild Heart of Life and Celebration Rock made up most of the selections, a few favorites from Post-Nothing found their way in as well. Thanks to a few fans who admittedly called for “Heart Sweats” after every song, Prowse caved and agreed to play the classic if the fans stopped calling for it. Holding true to his promise, it was the first time the song had been played in four to five years (according to the band). It was devoted to those in the crowd who have stayed with Japandroids since the days of them playing the likes of Kung Fu Necktie and Johnny Brenda’s.
The night ended without an encore, but that isn’t to say it was without a bang. Japandroids invited Finn on stage with them for a cover of The Saints’ “(I’m) Stranded”. The short performance summed up the night perfectly; a fireball spinning in controlled chaos. It also went to show that together Finn, Prowse and King would make one hell of a small supergroup.
In touring for each of their previous releases, Japandroids cracked the 200 show mark for both. While they might have stopped in Philadelphia early on in the tour, history can lead us to believe that it won’t be the last time we see the Canadian pair.